BERLIN - Sweden’s Volvo, the world’s second-biggest truck maker, presented a new self-driving electric truck, which it said should help respond to the boom in ecommerce and a shortage of freight drivers.
Volvo said the truck, which does not have a driver’s cab, was still under development and declined to say when it would be available commercially. It expects the vehicle to be deployed first in places like ports and large logistics centres.
“We believe there will be a driver behind the steering wheel for the foreseeable future, but we will pretty soon see self-drive commercial vehicles in confined areas,” Lars Stenqvist, Volvo chief technology officer, told a conference in Berlin.
Trucking is viewed by transport experts as a natural application for self-driving technology because of the relative predictability of highways compared with busy city streets.
The cabless truck - which Volvo calls Vera and can pull loads weighing up to 32 tonnes - can be attached to any standard trailer, Michael Karlsson, head of autonomous solutions at Volvo Trucks, said after the vehicle was unveiled.
“Vera means faith and we have faith in the future,” Karlsson said, adding the vehicle has a lower operating speed than a normal truck for safety reasons.
Guests at the presentation were made to stand behind a barrier as the truck drove out unaided from a tent and were only allowed to approach when it came to a stop.
The 1.4-million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters union is campaigning against new US rules to speed the deployment of self-driving trucks, warning they could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and hit road safety.