Category: Volvo

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News Volvo Trucks VNL Semi Trucks Feature Numerous Self-Driving & Safety Features

July 26th, 2017 by [1] 

Volvo Trucks’ new “VNL” semi truck series brings with it a number of notable self-driving features and safety systems, going by what’s been revealed so far.

While long-haul truckers have long had access to relatively advanced aftermarket cruise control systems, the wide variety of features included in Volvo Trucks’ VNL semi truck series is still interesting — as it is very clear that the company is aiming towards the eventual release of fully autonomous trucks.

To be more specific, the new advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) suite includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking, amongst other features.

While I didn’t explicitly state so above, much of what’s interesting about this news is that the ADAS suite will come standard in the VNL series. Volvo Trucks claims to be the first OEM to offer the above-discussed features as standard equipment.

An analyst for Navigant Research by the name of Sam Abuelsamid commented on the news: “It’s good to see truck makers starting to make this technology more widely available since truck drivers might be more susceptible to the sort of accidents these systems protect against due to their long hours behind the wheel. Long-haul trucking is likely to be one of the first broad applications of automated driving technologies.”

The Verge[2] provides more: “Indeed, there are widespread fears that autonomous technology will lead to enormous displacement among truck drivers. A recent study found that automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers as much as 50% to 70% in the US and Europe by 2030, with 4.4 million of the 6.4 million professional drivers on both continents rendered obsolete.

“… But we’re not there yet. Volvo says its advanced driver assist system combines camera and radar sensors to detect metallic objects and vehicles that are stationary or vehicles braking in front of a truck. It also works with cruise control to help the truck driver maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles. If a forward vehicle slows down, Volvo semi-autonomous system will alert the driver and, if necessary, reduce throttle, apply the brake, and downshift the transmission.”

In related news, the self-driving semi truck startup Embark[3] recently raised a lot of money in a Series A funding round, which will reportedly be used to bring its tech closer to commercial readiness.

Check out our new 93-page EV report[4], based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

[7] ‘s background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+[8].


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Introducing Volvo’s New VNR Regional Haul

MONTREAL, Que. — Volvo’s new VNR regional haul truck made a flashy debut at ExpoCam this week, in front hundreds of customers, dealers, and industry press. The truck, which will replace the VNM, features a more modern interior and aerodynamic design.

It will be about 3.5% more fuel-efficient than a VNM with GHG14 engine, according to Wade Long, product marketing manager, Volvo Trucks North America.

Brian Balicki, chief designer, said Volvo looked to motorsports for inspiration, and set out to design a truck that embodied the terms: bold, edgy, innovative, modern, and human.

Volvo VNR 400

“We really translated these statements into the product,” Balicki said at the ExpoCam launch. “We wanted to make sure this was an iconic design, that many years down the road this will still feel very modern and people will know from very far away that this is a Volvo truck.”

The exterior features a redesigned hood that provides better visibility of the road. It’s also 70 lbs lighter. A new honeycomb-style grille gives the truck an updated appearance. Headlights are mounted in from the edge of the fenders to prevent damage. The three-piece bumper has two replaceable end caps that can be swapped out when broken.

The interior of the truck is more homey, with an automotive-inspired design and many new amenities for the driver. For example, a refrigerated passenger seat, where a driver can store beverages within reach. Balicki said Volvo looked to the airline industry for inspiration when designing the interior, specifically at how first class cabins are designed.

“With the new VNR, we brought aesthetics – it’s pleasing to the eye – and we brought aerodynamics to a segment that has not historically had that brought to them,” said Long.

The new grille was designed to optimize air flow, and comes with a chrome bezel grille surround. Options include rain-sensing windshield wipers and automatic headlights. More than 2,000 drivers were interviewed during the design process, Long said.

“Regional drivers had different needs,” he said. “There are more requirements for ingress and egress, they’re in and out of the cab frequently. We wanted to make sure our VNR was designed around that.”
Three interior levels are offered. The cab features a new modular rail system with cupholders that can be placed exactly where the driver wants them. And there is no shortage of power options; there are multiple USB and 12-volt power outlets in the front and up to 12 in the sleeper.

The VNR driver environment.

Long said the steering wheel has been redesigned and can now be rotated 32 degrees, with a 4.5-inch telescoping range. There’s also a 30-degree head tilt feature. Long said this was done to make comfortable a wider variety of drivers.

“The stature of the driver pool is changing,” he said. “We can accommodate the shortest to tallest driver.”

Up to 19 buttons can be placed on the steering wheel for easy access to controls. A new five-inch color driver display lets drivers know at a glance if something requires their attention. The driver display can be controlled using the buttons on the steering wheel.

Interior lighting also received a lot of attention. Cool blue lighting is provided throughout the cab, because research indicates that color makes drivers feel better rested at the end of a driving shift. Red reading lights are available and a new “puddle lamp” shines from the bottom of the door onto the steps and ground when the door is open. Deeper door pockets are provided for increased storage.

Long said the seats have also been redesigned, providing two inches of additional travel and improved positioning, including a lower hip point for shorter drivers. There are seven seats available, in all interior packages.

“Customers found drivers want the same seat in every cab they have,” he said. “Now they can have the same seat in all their cabs, you don’t have to worry about having different (seat) features in different levels of interior.”

Cooled seats are also offered.

Volvo achieved a 113-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab (BBC) measurement, while adding four more inches of corner visibility, due to the new hood. The 3.5% fuel efficiency improvement is due in part to the more aerodynamic design, but also enhancements to Volvo’s D-series engines. Long said the D11, which is now available with up to 425 hp, will be a popular option in the new VNR. It provides customers with about 365 lbs in weight savings compared to a 13-liter. Design improvements have taken about 175 lbs out of the truck. The VNR shown at ExpoCam weighed in at 14,500 lbs, dry.

Models include the 300 (day cab, flat roof), 400 (42-inch mid-roof sleeper), and 640 (61-inch mid-roof sleeper).

The regional haul truck market is growing, as fleets shorten average haul lengths and attempt to get drivers home more regularly. Last year, regional haul trucks represented 21% of the Canadian Class 8 truck market.

The new truck will enter production in August, but orders are being taken immediately. The tagline for the VNR was “the shape of trucks to come,” suggesting, just perhaps, that a new linehaul tractor is in the works. But Volvo officials were unwilling to share any details about other models that may, or may not be, in development.


What it feels like to sit behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber

About 20 minutes into my ride in a self-driving Uber, I got a nonchalant offer: Did I want to sit behind the wheel? I’d already seen our Ford Fusion get cut off. And then there was the flatbed that veered into our lane, forcing my cautious test driver to take control and steer us to safety. We’d navigated around impatient pedestrians, cyclists and unmarked railroad crossings on Pittsburgh’s narrow, well-worn roads. The conditions felt a lot tougher than my first trip in a fully self-driving car, about a year ago at Google’s headquarters. “Oh sure, I’ll go for it,” I said, feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety. I knew my editor wouldn’t be happy if I said no. So in a gravel lot a stone’s throw from the Allegheny River, I left the safety of the Fusion’s backseat and climbed behind the wheel. The two Uber employees I was riding with provided a crash course in how not to, well, crash. If things got hairy, I could hit the brake or a giant red button on the center console to regain control of the Fusion. Starting Wednesday, Uber will be offering Pittsburgh customers the option of riding in about a dozen these cars. Passengers will sit in the back while two Uber employees in the front seats monitor the car’s performance. Uber isn’t saying when it will expand self-driving tests to other cities, or when the cars will operate without test drivers. Related: Is Uber’s self-driving car a job killer? [1] If self-driving cars work, the impact on society could be huge. Roads may become safer and transportation could be cheaper and more accessible — but many drivers may lose their jobs. For this revolution to happen, people will have to be willing to literally go along for the ride. Research has shown that most U.S. residents aren’t ready to trust self-driving cars yet. The Pittsburgh trials are a way for Uber to see how customers react to the cars, and what makes them uncomfortable. For me, there’s nothing alarming about riding in a self-driving car. But I started worrying once I was behind the wheel. “Just don’t crash this car,” I thought as I adjusted the mirrors. The Fusion was decked out with a small fortune of computing gear — 20 cameras, seven lasers and 360-degree radar coverage. It has more computing power on board than you’ll find in a typical small business, one Uber engineer told me. Repairs would be especially expensive. On River Avenue, I hit a chrome button on the center console and the car was suddenly driving itself. We plodded along at 25 mph, vigilantly honoring the speed limit. I held my hands gently on the wheel, and could feel it shifting back and forth ever so slightly to remain in the middle of our lane. As we approached a red light, the car eased to a stop behind a Kia. So far, so good. The turn signal flicked on, and we soon turned right onto the 31st Street Bridge. The car corners at a consistent angle, making turns that are slower and wider than the typical driver. At another intersection, a truck blared its horn as we turned, apparently frustrated with the car’s scrupulous style. Related: Uber will soon offer rides in self-driving Volvos, Fords [2] The car’s first real test with me at the helm came a few minutes later on Penn Ave. The car put on its right blinker and slowed for a turn. But a cyclist was overtaking us on our right. I’d driven the old fashioned way, all the way from Washington, D.C., for a moment just like this. Could the car handle a tricky situation? The cyclist kept pedaling, pulling a half-car length ahead of us at the intersection. The car appeared to have aced the test as we started another methodical, gentle turn. But a chime sounded, indicating that the car wanted me to take over. I guided the car through the rest of the turn. It was more than the car was programmed to handle on its own. A few blocks later, the car was back in autonomous mode and hugging the right side of the lane, just a couple feet from a row of parked cars. I resisted the urge to jerk the wheel to the left. We passed the parked cars without incident and came up to a truck parked in the middle of our lane, facing the wrong direction. I tapped the brake, and piloted the car around the truck, following the advice of the safety drivers. They felt the car could handle the challenge, but wanted to err on the safe side with a newbie behind the wheel. I spent almost an hour in the Ford Fusion, and six minutes behind the wheel. Between the test drivers and myself, we intervened five times. The drivers are taught to be especially cautious and will intervene even if the car doesn’t request it. Passengers in the backseat of Uber’s self-driving cars have a tablet to communicate with the vehicle. If Uber’s cars are ever good enough to drive around Pittsburgh without a test driver behind the wheel, Uber’s business will rapidly transform. Customers could book less expensive rides because there’s no need to pay a human driver. Uber believes self-driving cars will hasten a shift to a world where no one needs to own a car. Uber is testing in Pittsburgh because it hired a group of robotics experts from nearby Carnegie Mellon University. The city’s nature also provides a range of useful challenges. Aaron Steinfeld, an associate research professor working on autonomous vehicles at Carnegie Mellon, believes there is no better city to do autonomous vehicle research. “We have everything going on here,” Steinfeld said. “We have weather, we have hills, we have bridges, we have tunnels, we have all kinds of drivers. We’re in the sweet spot of East Coast and Midwest drivers so you see all sorts of behavior.” CNNMoney (Washington) First published September 14, 2016: 6:29 AM ET References ^ Related: Is Uber’s self-driving car a job killer? ( ^ Related: Uber will soon offer rides in self-driving Volvos, Fords (