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June 16, 2023
Volvo has confirmed it is opening an office in Fort Worth that will act as a base for its planned automated trucking services in Texas.
Volvo Autonomous Solutions (VAS), a division of the Swedish automotive group, will use the facility to coordinate efforts as it launches manual operations in preparation for commercial autonomous hub-to-hub transport.
The ultimate aim is to set up autonomous freight corridors between Dallas-Fort Worth and El Paso, and Dallas and Houston, but for the time being VAS is concentrating on using trucks with drivers for customers including DHL and Uber Freight.
This, Volvo believes, will allow it to establish frameworks and procedures for safe and reliable operations.
Nils Jaeger, President of Volvo Autonomous Solutions, explained: “We believe the path to autonomy at scale is through reducing the friction and complications around ownership and operations for customers. This is why we have taken the decision to be the single interface to our customers and take full ownership of the elements required for commercial autonomous transport.
“With the opening of our office in Texas and start of operational activities, we are building the foundations for a transport solution that will change the way we move goods on highways.”
The “hub to hub” model that VAS is pursuing will see Volvo autonomous trucks operate on highways at all hours of the day and night. These will be complemented by human drivers, who will deliver loads to the “starting hubs” and take over at “transfer hubs” to complete journeys on local roads.
The human drivers will be supplied by carriers who have reserved freight capacity on the VAS program, such as Tennessee’s Ascend and Convoy of Seattle, which both signed up earlier this year.
By implementing this approach, human drivers will not have to travel with the truck on the highway, which delivers a number of benefits.
“Our ambition is to create a new source of industry capacity that will ease some of the burden of the increasing demand for freight while also enabling local drivers to shift into short-haul jobs that will keep them closer to home,” said Sasko Cuklev, Volvo’s head of on-road solutions. “This will unlock significant efficiencies in the entire supply chain and benefit everyone in the transportation industry.”
Volvo trucks’ autonomous functionality will come via its partnership with Pittsburgh’s Aurora Innovation, and the integration of the latter’s Aurora Driver tech, which comprises an array of sensors and computing power.
The Volvo announcement is the latest evidence that Texas has become the U.S. center for autonomous truck testing – a situation that has evolved partly because of California’s ongoing coolness towards the idea of fully autonomous heavy vehicles.
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