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Volvo’s testing a self driving refuse collection truck, LAWMA's favourite

Volvo is ramping up its self-driving vehicle efforts by testing an autonomous garbage truck designed for use in cities.

The Swedish car maker has partnered with local waste and garbage specialists Renova for a project that’s setting out to explore “how automation can contribute to enhanced traffic safety, improved working conditions, and lower environmental impact,” according to a statement issued by Volvo.

As with countless other automotive companies, Volvo has previously announced a number of initiatives in the self-driving car realm, including a $300 million joint venture with Uber to develop autonomous cars. The company is also investing in driver-assistance systems in its current models.

According to Volvo, onboard sensors monitor the vehicle’s surroundings and stop the truck if an obstacle appears — which is the least you’d hope for with any self-driving vehicle. The very nature of a garbage collection service means that it typically follows the same route on its weekly schedule, which suits autonomous driving — in Volvo’s tests, the route is pre-programmed.

There is a human “driver” inside the truck who ensures it arrives at a given destination, a specific street, for example. But the driver then exits the vehicle and walks ahead to focus on collecting the actual garbage while the truck maneuvers itself between trash bins.

“One important benefit of the new technology is a reduction in the risk of occupational injuries, such as wear in knee joints — otherwise a common ailment among staff working with refuse collection,” added Stenqvist.

The trial will continue through to the end of 2017, and it follows a similar experiment Volvo announced last year in underground mines.

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