A Swedish waste and recycling company has begun trials of a fully autonomous dustbin lorry, which it claims will increase the safety and environmental benefits of weekly waste collections.
The truck, which is being tested in Gothenburg by waste and recycling operator Renova, attains autonomy by first being driven on a refuse collection route manually and then ‘remembering’ the route.
As a result, the truck knows when to start, stop, turn and reverse, allowing operatives to go about the task of waste collection without having to continually jump on and off the truck.
The system, developed by Volvo Trucks in conjunction with Renova, uses similar autonomous systems to those fitted in an autonomous tipper the truck maker developed for the Kristineberg stone mine last November.
The first time the automated refuse truck is used in a new area, it is driven manually while the on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. The next time the truck enters the same area, it knows exactly which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop.
At the first stop with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it in exactly the way the job is done today. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon receiving the driver’s command. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes and thus always has full view of what’s happening in the direction of travel.
“By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move,” said Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager at Renova. “And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there’s less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints.”
Reversing is otherwise a fairly risky manoeuvre since the driver may find it difficult to see who or what is moving behind the vehicle – even if it is fitted with a camera. Since sensors monitor the area all around the refuse truck, if the street is blocked by a parked car, the refuse truck can automatically drive around the obstruction provided there is sufficient space alongside. The automated systems also optimise gear changes, steering and speed, meaning fuel consumption and emissions can be reduced.
The project will continue until the end of 2017 and will be followed by an extremely thorough evaluation of functionality, safety and how well the vehicle is accepted by drivers, waste operatives, other road users and local residents.