Scania to launch autonomous vehicles by 2021
A Scania engineer believes its approach to the mining and port environments will see commercial vehicles on the market within five years
Scania believes it could have a commercially-available autonomous vehicle servicing the industrial area on the market within five years.
The Swedish truck maker, who has already trialled self-driving mining trucks, concedes while the opportunities in self-driving vehicles are vast, it sees mining, ports, and terminals as the most viable options for testing programs on the back of their controlled environment and economic potential.
Scania senior engineer Tom Nyström says the restricted environments are tailored for early trials.
"We chose industrial applications as our first business area because they have a great economic potential, it’s legally possible to operate self-driving vehicles, and the environment is relatively controlled," Nyström says.
"Still, it’s in no way a trivial thing to operate heavy self-driving machines anywhere.
"They obviously need to be safe, and to achieve this in an unpredictable environment such as a city centre is even more difficult."
Brands such as Freightliner and Daimler have made early inroads into the autonomous market for on-highway use and Scania says this is where it has a point of difference.
"We can start in the industrial sector and evolve from there to more and more complex environments, while building experience and continuously releasing new commercial products throughout the journey," Nyström says.
While autonomous vehicles may be a potential safety hazard in the city, they could make a huge impact on the safety environment for miners, port workers, and others in the industrial supply chain.
"There are many environments in the mining industry that are dangerous or unhealthy to people," Nyström says.
"For example, work needs to cease while ventilating harmful gases after blasting. Autonomous vehicles can go to work immediately.
"In underground mining, many resources are spent on tunnel roof reinforcement before allowing people to enter. Self-driving vehicles don’t have the same requirements."
Issues around attracting employees to the often remote locations would also be addressed to a degree.
"It’s often hard to recruit qualified people to such locations and this is a limiting factor for opening new operations," the Scania engineer says.
"Additionally, each miner requires housing, cooking, cleaning, and so on, so you basically need to build an entire community by the mine."
The five-year goal requires "a robust, smart and economical" approach, Nyström says, but the "advantages for us at Scania are our modular way of building vehicles and that we can develop and adapt nearly all the necessary components ourselves."
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