The Scania AXL concept truck can guide itself around construction sites without a driver. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Scania AXL concept truck can guide itself around construction sites without a driver. Picture: SUPPLIED

In what is a milestone in the development of heavy self-driving vehicles, Scania has developed a concept truck without a cab.

Looking somewhat like a prop from a sci-fi movie, the Scania AXL concept truck does away with a cabin because it’s able to guide itself around a construction site without a driver. This not only makes more loading space available on any given wheelbase but, when such trucks are one day unleashed onto open roads at higher speeds, the flat and streamlined shape will contribute to lower fuel consumption and emissions.

For now, mines and construction sites are the ideal testing grounds for autonomous trucks due to their closed and controlled environments.

“With the Scania AXL concept truck, we are taking a significant step towards the smart transport systems of the future, where self-driving vehicles will play a natural part,” says Scania president and CEO Henrik Henriksson. “We continue to build and pilot concepts to demonstrate what we can do with the technology that is available today.”

As different industries look to streamline transport assignments and make them more sustainable, self-driving vehicles are increasingly being considered.

For autonomous vehicles, software is in many ways more important than hardware. Scania AXL is steered and monitored by an intelligent control environment. In mines, for example, the autonomous operations are facilitated by a logistics system that tells the vehicle how it should perform.

“We already have self-driving trucks in customer operations. However, so far they have been with room for a safety driver who can intervene if necessary. Scania AXL does not have a cab and that changes the game significantly,” says Claes Erixon, head of research & development at Scania.

“The development in self-driving vehicles has made great strides in the past years. We still don’t have all the answers, but through concept vehicles like Scania AXL we break new ground and continue to learn at great speed.”

Scania is on a major drive to develop self-driving commercial vehicles for the future. The AXL follows the launch of Scania’s NXT electric self-driving urban concept bus earlier this year. The zero-emission vehicle is designed with the flexibility to shift between ferrying commuters to and from work in mornings and evenings, delivering goods during the day and collecting refuse at night — all without a driver.