Volvo's prototype autonomous wheeled loader and articulated dump trucker working together

Volvo's prototype autonomous wheeled loader and articulated dump trucker working together

Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) is setting itself four key technical challenges that it calls Triple Zero and 10x, which it is using to define the world of tomorrow.

Martin Weissburg, member of the Volvo Group executive board and president of Volvo CE, explained what this meant – zero emissions, zero accidents, zero unplanned stops and 10x higher efficiency.

Volvo said that it wanted to see zero machine emissions to help make customers’ businesses more environmentally sustainable; zero accidents with pioneering safety innovations so that machines could instinctively avoid accidents, generating a completely safe working environment; zero unplanned downtime in a world without machine breakdowns, where machines predict and plan their own maintenance, making unplanned stops a thing of the past; and 10 times more efficient, with the electrification of construction equipment and site optimisation will dramatically reduce energy consumption.

Volvo held the Xploration Forum 2016 at its Customer Centre in Eskilstuna, Sweden, to show the various technologies and multinational studies being undertaken to meet the new challenges.

Weissburg said the speed of change in the world had had a strong impact on society.

“The world in 2025 will change and we need to change with it.”

He said that in 2025, 10% of people will use clothing connected to the internet, 10% of optical lenses will be connected to the internet, the first printed 3D car will be in production, 10% of cars in the US will be driverless, and 30% of corporate audits will be performed by artificial intelligence.

Electric mobility

He said Volvo CE was developing technologies for electric mobility, intelligent machines and total solutions in place that would benefit its customers and the environment, contributing to increased machine performance, productivity, efficiency, safety and sustainability.

The company’s products and services in the future would play an important role in building a sustainable society, Weissburg said, and with these focuses in mind Volvo is emphasising its commitment to lead in technology and innovation

Through Volvo Concept Lab, a new initiative for the group, the company wants to communicate what future innovations and solutions can be expected, although he added that these were still in project stage and are not commercially available.

Dave Ross, vice president of advanced engineering and verification, said changes were being made “to build the world we want”, with new business models, systems, technology, products and services.

One of the innovations presented at the event was to do with autonomous machines such as the HX1 load carrier.

The prototype is part of the electric site research project that estimates a reduction of up to 95% in carbon emissions and up to 25% reduction in total cost of ownership.

The project – in conjunction with Skanska Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and the universities of Linköping and Mälardalen – aims to electrify transport in a quarry, from excavation to primary and secondary crushing.

In addition to a fleet of HX1s, a prototype of a hybrid wheeled loader – LX1 – is in operation, with the potential to improve fuel efficiency up to 50%, and a grid-connected excavator.

Johan Sjöberg, technical specialist in site automation, said, “This research project is a step towards transforming the quarry and aggregates industry.”

The project, which is costing about SEK203 million (€21.09 million), will be completed by the end of 2018, after which Volvo CE will analyse the results and determine whether the concept is viable for the industry.

Autonomous

Another technological innovation presented by the company was the prototypes of the wheeled loader and autonomous articulated truck working together, and able to perform certain repetitive tasks without an operator.

According to the company, in an hour’s comparison, it was discovered that the autonomous loader could reach an equivalent 70% of the productivity levels of a skilled operator, in loading and unloading. The machine has undertaken a real job for a customer of Volvo CE in an asphalt plant in Sweden.

The company, according to Jenny Elfsberg, director of emerging technologies, also has a prototype autonomous excavator.

While the company has made great strides in these new technologies, Elfsberg warned that it was too early to incorporate this technology. The company is working on developing solutions that have security levels and required performance that the market will accept.

“There is still a long way to go so there are no plans for industrialisation at this stage,” she said.

Currently these prototypes do not communicate with each other, something that is crucial when it comes to avoiding collisions and facilitate an efficient flow of equipment.

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