The latest self-steering Volvo truck innovates the way Brazilian farmers handle their crops. The Swedish manufacturing company is on a mission to revolutionize the Brazilian sugarcane industry by providing a smart and crop-friendly solution. Volvo has also developed other self-steering trucks to help industries become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
[Image Source: Volvo Trucks]
Volvo truck to increase Brazil's sugarcane harvest
Brazil is the largest sugarcane producer in the world. However, about 4% of the sugarcane crops the Brazilians plant are damaged and lost as young plants are run over by harvesters and manually-controlled trucks. Moreover, the traditional trucks that are driven across the crop fields apply too much pressure on the fertile soil. The combined soil compaction and damage to the young plants result into a significant revenue loss of tens of thousands of US dollars per truck per season.
[Image Source: Volvo Group]
A particular group, the Usina Santa Terezinha Group, provided Volvo with a test area to try out the company's new self-driving truck. Located in Maringa, west from Sao Paolo, the sugarcane field produces sugar and ethanol for the Brazilian group. The Volvo truck was developed to investigate how automated driving could solve the problem of steering over crops. If successful, this could improve the condition of planted crops for quality harvest - up to ten tons per hectare per year, which also means increased revenue.
"With the help of Volvo Trucks’ solution, we can increase productivity, not just for one single crop but for the entire lifecycle of the sugar-cane plant, which lasts five to six years", says Paulo Meneguetti, Santa Terezinha's Finance and Procurement Director.
The Volvo truck technology
The bespoke Volvo truck is equipped with a driver assistance system that automates steering. The technology ensures that the vehicle is always on the right course as it drives alongside the harvester. By doing so, the crops remain untouched and in good condition.
Using GPS receivers, the truck follows a coordinated-based map as it drives through the sugarcane field. The front wheels and the entirety of the truck are driven with utmost precision by equipping the vehicle with two gyroscopes. This ensures that the truck doesn't veer for more than 25 mm laterally from the programmed path. When crops are being loaded, the driver has the option to select the vehicle's speed using the built-in cruise control. Manual acceleration and braking are also available from the cruise control. Volvo's truck technology promotes a more convenient way of harvesting sugarcane crops as drivers are being freed from the highly exhausting job of constant precision steering. It makes it easier for them to remain focused on the overall task in a more relaxed and safe method throughout the shift.
Wilson Lirmann, President of Volvo Group Latin America, expressed the importance of the self-steering truck within the Brazilian crop industry:
"With this solution, we will soon be able to significantly increase the productivity of our customers in the sugarcane industry. At the same time, we will improve their drivers’ working conditions and safety. This, in turn, will make the job more appealing, and make it easier to recruit and maintain drivers."
The Future of Trucking
The truck's research project will progress to the next phase in product development as more vehicles undergo field testing. After that phase, the developed trucks can be expected to be available commercially in the near future. Volvo will be offering its customers with an advanced GPS-based map-reading system this year. It will give drivers better scope for following a predetermined course. (However, steering will still be done manually at this point in time.)
Using the self-steering truck sugarcane transportation is just one of Volvo's research and development projects for automated vehicles. Volvo is currently testing other self-driving trucks for mining and waste refuse purposes.