Volvo Buses

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Self-driving buses and automation

The vision of autonomous buses

By introducing automated functions, bus and coach traffic will improve in terms of both safety and efficiency. Driver assistance systems, safety features and charging of electric buses are first in line. Looking ahead, Volvo is already running successful full-scale and real-life field trials with autonomous driving in controlled environments. Autonomous buses in everyday traffic are still a thing of the future, but Volvo will be more than ready once driverless traffic is allowed.

The Singapore autonomous field trial

In Singapore, Volvo Buses and Nanyang Technological University have been conducting a field trial with the world’s first full-size autonomous electric bus. The Volvo 7900 Electric bus is equipped with numerous sensors and navigation controls managed by a comprehensive artificial intelligence (AI) system included in the Volvo Autonomous Research Platform. The project is a cooperative venture with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to develop and conduct autonomous vehicle bus trials for fixed-route and scheduled services.

Automation in bus depots

Autonomous driving in depots will be one of the first commercially available applications of automation. Moving buses between washing, charging and parking can be handled with perfect precision virtually without human intervention. Volvo and transport operator Keolis demonstrated the possibilities at a real-life event in west Sweden, where a Volvo 7900 Electric automatically roamed the premises.

Roadmap towards autonomous buses

Even if the technology for autonomous driving is already here, there are many other aspects to consider as artificial intelligence takes over vehicle control and decision-making. At Volvo we are at the forefront, conducting our own research and also working together with independent academies.

Automated driver support systems

Already today there are several automated functions helping the driver to drive more safely and with fewer distractions. Systems for lane keeping and collision warning are fundamental features. These systems will be further developed and become more capable but they still require interaction with, and actions by, a driver.

Autonomous in confined areas

Today’s sensor technology allows for controlled and precise driverless progress. With connected functions, driverless vehicles can also interact with each other according to pre-defined algorithms. In confined areas such as depots or charging stations all the relevant parameters are known, and the buses can move around safely without human intervention.

Autonomous in traffic

For autonomous driving, the step from confined areas to everyday city traffic is huge and getting there will require careful implementation. One likely initial application is Bus Rapid Transit, where the buses have dedicated lanes free from other road users. With fewer parameters for the automated systems to handle, BRT will be an important real-life validation arena for autonomous driving.

Milestone technologies

Autonomous driving requires technologies of different kinds. Smart algorithms, reliable sensors, superfast data communication and fail-proof mechanical subsystems are just a few examples. Volvo continuously develops and deploys functions and features that will become part of future systems for autonomous driving.

Volvo Autonomous Research Platform

The Volvo Autonomous Research Platform is a software cluster, processing data from navigation system and multiple sensors. This includes light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARS), stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D, and an advanced high-precision global satellite navigation system that also uses real-time kinematics.The Volvo Autonomous Research Platform is a software cluster, processing data from navigation system and multiple sensors. This includes light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARS), stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D, and an advanced high-precision global satellite navigation system that also uses real-time kinematics.

Pedestrian & cyclist detection

The Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection System continuously monitors the bus’s vicinity using a camera. When the system detects unprotected road users near the bus, it transmits a sound to warn other road users that the bus is approaching. At the same time, the driver is alerted via sound and light signals inside the vehicle. If there is an imminent risk of an incident, the bus’s horn is activated.

Volvo Dynamic Steering

Volvo Dynamic Steering, VDS, is essentially an advanced form of power steering designed to improve the ease, comfort and precision of driving. But it is also an electro-mechanical component capable of steering the bus when fed with data from an autonomous driving system. VDS’s core components include an electric motor, a hydraulic steering gear, a control unit and a range of sensors.

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