Although Autonomous Transportation Is Still In Its Primavera, Volvo’s Vera Looks Mature

Volvo’s concept truck was announced last September (2018). It’s built to be autonomous from the ground up and therefore differs from its counterparts. Last month, Volvo announced a partnership with DFDS, a giant in the ferry and transport industry, to employ the completely autonomous and electric truck. What makes Vera so special? Bicle tells you all about it.

Short Recap Of Volvo Autonomic Vehicles

Volvo is not new in this world – it is not Volvo’s first autonomous transport project. The company already deployed self-steering trucks to help farmers in Brazil with transportation of sugarcane and garbage processing. In November 2018 the company first deployed self-driving trucks in the mining industry.   

Vera’s First Assignment On Public Roads

In June 2019 Volvo announced the collaboration with DFDS where Vera will be deployed for the first time. The goal is to get Volvo’s first electric, connected and autonomous vehicle to be implemented in a continuous flow of goods from a DFDS logistics center to APM Terminals port facility in Gothenburg (Sweden).

Mikael Karlsson, Vice President Autonomous Solutions at Volvo Truck, is very optimistic about this real application for his Vera: “Now we have the opportunity to implement Vera in an ideal setting and further develop her potential for other similar operations.”

Short, Fixed Distances

Several trucks will be programmed to ride a specific route on public roads with a speed of 40 km/h (25mph). For now the distance won’t be too long as it’s only in the early phases of the project. That’s also why the trucks will be remotely monitored in a control room, so in case anything happens, human interference is possible.  

According to the Volvo Truck’s website, the aim is to establish a seamless flow of goods responsive to demands for greater efficiency and flexibility.

Karlsson states that these are the perfect conditions for Vera to be tested in. It’s safe and controlled and the distances are relatively short with low speed. Its potential can be fully tested and developed for similar operations in the future.

Vera's Futuristic Design

A team at Volvo Trucks believed that the transport industry needed to change to break the current status quo. The possibilities of techniques like connectivity, autonomy and electro mobility where explored and combined to design a new generation of trucks.

Karlsson states that: “With Vera, we had the opportunity to help define how an autonomous vehicle would look. It needed to look modern, but not so high-tech that it would feel alien or intimidating. This is a functional vehicle with a specific assignment, which needs to be able to integrate as a total solution. So it was important for us that Vera came across as simple, accessible and looked natural in its environment.”

Having that said, the design looks stunning and modern, futuristic almost, but therefore maybe a bit strange. The vehicle’s lines look smooth and the lights are beautifully integrated, but it’s ‘missing’ a cabin. However, a cabin is of course completely redundant in a self-driving connected electric vehicle. So, maybe it only seems missing because when people think of a truck, it has a cabin.

Nonetheless, Volvo has done a great job in bringing future elements together with great design. ‘’Vera has an honest, clean and functional design that gives an expression of trust and reliability. I feel that we successfully gave it a personality and human expression while bringing out its technical and futuristic elements,’’ says Ismail Ovacik, Chief Designer Exterior at Volvo Trucks. That’s also probably the reason Volvo gave it a human name.

Important For Future Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous driving may be in its early days, Vera is quickly maturing. It is therefore not hard to imagine that this will have an effect on the way we will conceive automated transportation. It is also an important step in autonomous and connected electric vehicles as a whole. With this collaboration between Volvo and DFDS the future has become present.