Volvo has announced a collaboration with companies and universities in Sweden and the US on ROAR (Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling). The project aims to build robots that will assist garbage truck operators by doing all the heavy lifting for them, picking up and emptying refuse bins autonomously (under the driver's supervision) and as quietly as possible.
According to Volvo, Penn State University will develop the graphics, communication systems and control panel for the truck driver; Chalmers University students will work on the operating system; Mälardalens University will design the robot; and waste disposal company Renova will take care of the vehicle itself.
The robots, which judging from the illustration will be somewhat reminiscent of humanoids on a Segway, will take instructions directly from the truck's operating system and, supervised by the truck driver, will collect refuse bins straight from the sidewalk, bring them to the truck and empty them while keeping decibel levels at a minimum.
Volvo says this autonomous technology could be applied to many more areas, refuse collection being just the beginning. The automaker's involvement shouldn't come as a surprise in light of the company's recent interest in self-driving technology, which Gizmag got to experience first-hand.
"Within Volvo Group we foresee a future with more automation," says project leader Per-Lage Götvall. "This project provides a way to stretch the imagination and test new concepts to shape transport solutions for tomorrow."
The technology is planned to be first tested in June 2016. Then, though no such plans have been announced, the next step in automation could perhaps be to get rid of human intervention altogether through use of a self-driving truck.