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Ever seen a truck without a driver’s cabin?

A vehicle named Vera

Efficient and sustainable solutions for the logistics and transportation sector are without doubt one of the key issues of our time. The first driverless, autonomous and emission-free tractor unit was presented in 2018 at the international automotive exhibition and began practical trials this summer at the Port of Gothenburg.

Volvo Trucks has developed the first autonomous tractor unit for heavy haulage. It is called “Vera.” Vera is a low-profile, noiseless vehicle with no driver’s cab; it has a pure electric power unit, is equipped with sensors and is completely emission-free.

This is the future, according to Mikael Karlsson, Vice President Autonomous Solutions, Volvo Trucks. For the logistics and transportation industry in particular, the topic of autonomous haulage systems is a pressing one. Not only because the growth of global trade is creating an ever-increasing demand for sustainable transport solutions, but also because eCommerce is expanding all the time, and in many areas there are simply not enough qualified drivers. Autonomous, electric, and above all safe vehicles offer a vital additional element. They guarantee continuous goods transportation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Connected through a cloud-based service and management center

Back to Vera: The autonomous tractor unit is particularly well suited to short, repetitive trips, where large volumes of goods need to be transported. So ports, factory sites, and large logistics centers may be Vera’s natural habitat. The vision: Vera is part of a large integrated system. Several autonomous electric vehicles operate together in a network and are connected by a cloud-based service and management center. For safety reasons, the vehicles move at a low operating speed. When the battery power runs low, Vera returns automatically to the charging station.

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“There has been great interest, both from general public and from potential customers. We believe that this technology can complement today’s solutions in specific applications, and it needs to be integrated as a natural part of society. This is why Vera has been designed to fit our approach ‘by people for people’.”

Mikael Karlsson, Vice President Autonomous Solutions at Volvo Trucks, on public reactions to Vera and possible fears of advanced automation


Vera’s first job

In the freight yards at the Swedish Port of Gothenburg, Vera is now in use for the first time by a Danish ferry and logistics company. Here Vera is transporting containers from the logistics center to the port. For this purpose the autonomous tractor unit operates on pre-defined routes, which also include stretches of public road. After a few essential adaptations to the technical infrastructure there, such as automated gates and charging stations, the aim is to provide a seamless, constant flow of goods, so that transportation and logistics processes can be optimized.

High-tech product with a soul and futuristic looks

Another characteristic you can always expect from Volvo is a symbiosis of technology and design. Vera’s design needed to be function-led, but also to have an emotional aspect, explains Ismail Ovacik, Chief Designer Exterior for Volvo Trucks. The futuristic design consists of three key elements: The so-called “brain,” where all the technology is located, is colored black. The “body” has pale-colored surfaces, representing the human side of the vehicle, and soft, sleek sides, which give it a lighter look on the road; the sturdy fenders look like shoulders and inspire confidence. The third feature is the “lighting elements,” which are not just headlights, but also shine light through the bodywork in an iconic V-shape: for Vera by Volvo.

Flawless design and a breathtaking shape