Volvo Unveils VNL 760 Autonomous Semi-Truck Prototype for North America

The future of transportation seems to rest on two buzz words: electrification and autonomy. The proponents of these see a world where fully electric powertrains replace internal combustion and diesel engines and where self-driving, autonomous vehicles dominate the streets and highways—all in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change while increasing efficiency and sustainability. Opponents to this notion of a rapidly changing paradigm shift in transportation point out concerns about safety, infrastructure, cost, feasibility, and so on.

Pros and cons can be found on both sides of the spectrum, and the auto industry is not fully on one (or the other) side right now. The shift is going toward electrification and autonomy, but the foundation still rests on internal combustion engines and people actually driving. It’s a fun time, one which brings advancements in technology that just a few decades ago would have seemed unfathomable. Take autonomous commercial trucking, for example—you know, full-on autonomous Class 8 trucks. People are going to have different reactions to the advancement of self-driving tech in stuff so big, but it’s ever-so-slowly happening right before our very eyes.

With the digital reveal of a prototype of its first autonomous on-highway semi-truck in North America, Volvo Autonomous Solutions, in partnership with a company called Aurora, has hit a milestone in the quest toward launching autonomous big rigs into our market. Similar efforts have been underway elsewhere already.

The autonomous semi is based off of Volvo’s flagship long-haul VNL model (VNL 760). While the exterior resembles a normal Volvo semi-truck, what’s underneath does not. The VNL, equipped with all of Volvo’s advanced safety and technology features such as the existing Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) and automated transmission (I-Shift) and a bounty of other advanced vehicle features, has been mated with the Aurora Driver technology. The result is the foundation of autonomous Volvo VNL semi-trucks.

Autonomous commercial trucks still face quite a journey before hitting the market. Volvo Autonomous Solutions and Aurora continue to work with customers to understand their needs, priorities, and demands. Volvo also recognizes that autonomous trucking could complement—not replace—the transport system. It recognizes that autonomous trucking needs to be implemented in situations where it makes sense and serves a purpose.

The autonomous trucking future is not here yet, but with prototypes like this autonomous Volvo VNL, it’s getting closer.

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