UD Trucks, a Volvo subsidiary company, put on a show for journalists at a sugar factory in Japan, exhibiting a new autonomous truck prototype that was able to operate without human assistance for approximately 1.5 kilometres.
Testing began in early August, UD Trucks stated, adding that it is the first level 4 trial involving a heavy duty truck in Japan. As The Japan Times reports, level 4 vehicles are able to operate independent of humans in certain areas and on certain routes. Level 4 is one step below absolute autonomy.
“We’d like to launch commercial operations (of level 4 vehicles) in a confined area as early as next year,” UD Trucks President Takamitsu Sakamaki said during a recent press conference.
For the test (which is part of a nationwide effort to prepare for a coming shortage of drivers, due to population ageing), UD Trucks partnered with leading logistics company Nippon Express and the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives.
Hokuren Chairman Kazuyuki Uchida spoke about the issue to reporters, saying: “I’m afraid we’ll face severe driver shortages in the near future. I hope the autonomous driving technology will soon be realized to ensure a stable supply of farm products.”
The Japan Times describes the result of the automated truck test:
“At the test site, the autonomous truck ran the distance, including about 200 meters on a public road around the factory, at a speed of 20 kph (12 mph).
“The heavy duty truck smoothly entered the factory site from the public road and went to a sugar beet storage site before arriving at the factory where the material is processed.
“A driver was aboard to ensure safety, but he kept his hands off the wheel during the demonstration.”
Established in 1935, UD Trucks is headquartered in Ageo, Saitama, Japan. It was bought by Volvo Group in 2007.