Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Volvo drives autonomous vehicles to logistics project

Steve Rogerson
July 9, 2019

Volvo Trucks' electric, connected and autonomous vehicle Vera will form part of a project to transport goods from a logistics centre to a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden. The assignment follows a collaboration between Volvo Trucks and ferry and logistics company DFDS.
The purpose of the collaboration is to implement Vera in a real application, enabling a connected system for a continuous flow of goods, from a DFDS logistics centre to an APM terminal in the port, for distribution across the world.
In 2018, Volvo Trucks presented its first electric, connected and autonomous vehicle, designed for repetitive assignments in logistics centres, factories and ports. Vera is suited to short distances, transporting large volumes of goods with high precision.
"Now we have the opportunity to implement Vera in an ideal setting and further develop her potential for other similar operations," said Mikael Karlsson, vice president at Volvo Trucks.
The aim is to implement a connected system consisting of several Vera vehicles monitored by a control tower. The purpose is to enable a seamless and constant flow responsive to demands on efficiency, flexibility and sustainability. The collaboration with DFDS is seen as a first step towards implementing Vera in a real transport assignment on pre-defined public roads in an industrial area.
"We want to be at the forefront of connected, autonomous transportation," said Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS. “This collaboration will help us develop an efficient, flexible and sustainable long-term solution for receiving autonomous vehicles arriving at our gates, benefitting our customers, the environment and our business.”
The autonomous transportation will be further developed in terms of technology, operations management and infrastructure adaptations, before it can be fully operational. Moreover, necessary safety precautions are planned to meet societal requirements for a safe path towards autonomous transport.
As Volvo Trucks gains more experience, Vera has the potential to be used in similar applications as a complement to today's transportation.
"Autonomous transports with low noise levels and zero exhaust emissions have an important role to play in the future of logistics, and will benefit both business and society,” said Karlsson. “We see this collaboration as an important start and want to drive progress in this area. Vera may have a speed limit, but we don't. Testing has already started and we intend to implement the solution within the coming years."
The assignment is to move containers from the DFDS logistics centre in Gothenburg to an APM terminal in the port according to needed capacity. The autonomous system will be monitored by an operator in a control tower who will also be responsible for the transport.
The set-up is suited to repetitive flows with a maximum speed of 40km/h. Infrastructure adaptations are part of the scope in the implementation of the total transport system, including automated gates at the terminals.
Volvo Trucks and DFDS are the main partners but several actors are involved in implementing Vera's first assignment.
Copenhagen-based DFDS provides ferry and transport services in Europe and Turkey, generating annual revenues of around DKK17bn. The 8000 employees are located on ships and in offices across 20 countries.
The initiative is being carried out with support from the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova, the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Energy Agency through the FFI strategic vehicle research and innovation programme.