Trucking technology specialist Scania has unveiled its latest concept: A heavy, self-driving truck that's totally cabin-less.
"With the Scania AXL concept truck, we are taking a significant step towards the smart transport systems of the future, where self-driving vehicles will play a natural part," says company president and CEO Henrik Henriksson. "We continue to build and pilot concepts to demonstrate what we can do with the technology that is available today."
The AXL is made for tough environments, like mines and large and closed construction sites. It gathers data about its environment from seven cameras, a laser, and radars. A lower center of gravity allows for greater stability and much stronger aerodynamic performance - saving fuel.
The truck is steered and monitored by a smart control system, facilitated by a logistics system that constantly updates the vehicle on how it's performing and how it can improve.
"We already have self-driving trucks in customer operations. however so far, they have room for a safety driver who can intervene if necessary," says head of research and development Claes Erixon. "Scania AXL does not have a cab and that changes the game significantly."
Trucks will become more autonomous in the coming years. Scania, who's based in Sweden and owned by Volkswagen, is also working on platoon technology, which digitally tethers convoys of two or more trucks, enabling them to travel closely together and reducing drag and fuel expenditure. A lead truck cuts the wind for the following trucks, reducing aerodynamic drag and lowering fuel use by as much as 9.7 percent.
Peloton Technologies, a company at the helm of the autonomous vehicle revolution and developer of platooning technology, says two-truck platooning is already commercially viable.
Automated trucks and platooning technology could potentially help mitigate the impending truck driver shortage. In the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual industry issues report for 2017, driver shortage topped the list of critical issues facing the industry for the first time since 2006. The industry was around 51,000 drivers short in 2017 - up from 36,000 in 2016 - and that number is projected to increase to a whopping 174,000 by 2026.
Many wood products companies have reported that the shortage of drivers is directly responsible for their own fourth-quarter shortages, according to the Hardwood Distributors Association (HDA). Some are seeing significant impacts to capacity levels due to inability to efficiently transport materials.
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