Innovation

Volvo Debuts Autonomous, Electric Truck

Volvo unveiled a new self-driving electric truck that could help with a shortage of freight drivers. The truck is still being developed and no official launch date was given, but the automaker said the vehicle should be initially deployed in ports and large logistics centers.

“We believe there will be a driver behind the steering wheel for the foreseeable future, but we will pretty soon see self-drive commercial vehicles in confined areas,” said Lars Stenqvist, Volvo chief technology officer, at a conference in Berlin, according to Reuters.

The truck, called Vera, doesn’t have a driver’s cab, but can pull loads weighing up to 32 tons and can be attached to any standard trailer, said Michael Karlsson, head of autonomous solutions at Volvo Trucks, adding that the vehicle has a lower operating speed than a normal truck for safety reasons.

“Vera means faith, and we have faith in the future,” Karlsson said. He noted that the truck would enable locations that usually have to operate only during daytime working hours to run around the clock.

While the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union has argued that the deployment of self-driving trucks could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, many trucking firms reported they are having a hard time finding and retaining drivers.

Volvo isn’t the only automaker looking to fill the gap. Uber tried to get in on the action, launching its autonomous truck deliveries in May, with the first hauls driven in tandem with both human drivers and self-driving trucks, completed in Arizona. However, in July, the company announced it was abandoning the project, choosing to focus its autonomous-vehicle technology solely on cars.

Earlier this year, FedEx announced that it has reserved 20 Tesla semi-trucks, with the fully electric trucks slated for production in 2019.

“FedEx has a long history of innovation and incorporating sustainability efforts throughout its global network,” said FedEx Freight President and CEO Mike Ducker at the time. “Our investment in these trucks is part of our commitment to improving road safety, while also reducing our environmental impact.”

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