Electrification, autonomous trucks, and connectivity are transforming the trucking industry. said Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO of the Volvo Group. He explored these topics addressing a crowd of trucking industry suppliers at the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association’s lunch briefing during the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta Oct. 29.
With 8 billion people projected to be living in an increasingly digital world by 2030, he said, “With that population that means that transportation needs will continue to grow and increase, both goods and people – but it needs to be considerably more sustainable,” in order to leave the world in good shape for future generations.
Some of the things driving the industry transformation, he said, include:
- Vehicles are only used about 25 percent of the time over their life cycle, sitting idle and unproductive the rest of the time
- Only about 40-50% of available load capacity is actually used, meaning more of a vehicle’s length is theoretically available for cargo
- 5-10% of total fuel consumed is used to move goods
- Roads reach their peak throughput only 5% of the time, and even then, it is only 10% covered with vehicles
- Nearly 7% of all U.S. accidents involve a large truck – and about 12% of fatal crashes.
“In Volvo, what we are going for is safety, that should continue to be the main priority,” he said – but at the same time, obviously new technologies offer great potential for more efficiency and productivity.
Lundstedt said the new technologies transforming the transportation system are electrification, autonomous technologies, and connectivity.
“They are interesting, but they must be put in context,” he said. “How do we get out the benefits?”
As a project that covers all three technologies, he highlighted Vera, an electric, connected and autonomous tractor, designed for repetitive assignments in logistics centers, factories and ports, Vera doesn’t even have a cab for a driver. Vera now is being used in its first real-world job – providing autonomous transport between a logistics center and the port terminal in Volvo’s hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Moving to e-mobility, Lundstedt pointed to the Volvo Lights project (Volvo Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) where it’s conducting real-world tests of battery electric Volvo VNRs at the southern California ports, working with California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District and over a dozen industry partners. Volvo has said it plans to have the EVNRs available for sale by the end of 2020.
Also under the Volvo Group, Mack offers the LR electric for waste/refuse applications.
Autonomous trucks, he said, have a great deal of potential in areas such as safety, energy efficiency, and productivity, and predicted they “will come quickly into our business.” There are many applications the Volvo Group is involved with where autonomous trucks make sense, such as port drayage, mines, and cross dock operations. “This is an area where we are putting a lot of effort.”
Volvo recently announced it is establishing a new business division that will focus the company’s engineering, design and financial efforts to accelerate the development, commercialization and sales of self-driving vehicles. And earlier this year, Volvo Group announced a partnership with Nnvidia to develop advanced AI platform for autonomous trucks.
The third area where there is huge potential, he said, is “growing digitization.”
Today there are 1 million connected Volvo group vehicles. “We are collecting enormous amounts of data. The capability of collection, analysis and action have improved tremendously.”
This connectivity is enabling new levels of customer service and uptime, he said, allowing for more informed and specific advice.
Lundstedt emphasized that a large proportion of its investment in developing new technologies focuses on what he called “well-known technology,” such as powertrains, aerodynamics, and safety systems.
“Yes, we are investing heavily in new technologies, but equality heavily into what we call well known; there’s a lot that can be done in those areas, as well.”