Having just about gotten used to the idea of sharing the road with self-driving cars, motorists may need to take a deep breath at the sight of this futuristic—and completely driverless—machine. It’s called the AXL and was designed and built by Swedish truckmaker Scania to show the world what a fully autonomous truck might look like. The design is radically different from a normal heavy-duty commercial vehicle as this freight-hauler doesn’t need a driver anymore (and hence no cabin for humans to sit in). Instead, its low silhouette and assertive lines make it look like Judge Dredd’s weekend ride, but the firm promises that it will be kind to humans and able to avoid running them over thanks to some clever technology that helps it drive along on its own.
Scania has already built a number of self-driving trucks in the past, and some of them are even in customer operation. But all of those still looked like normal land transporters complete with cabins for safety drivers who could take over if the computer went bonkers. The AXL now does away with the human factor completely and instead relies on intelligent software, cameras, radar, LIDAR and GPS receivers to find its destination without bumping into anything. The concept vehicle seen here showcases a tipper variant that may find uses on mining and construction sites. The company is also working on versions for inner-city deliveries that apparently will sport a gentler design.
Seeing how many issues trucks can cause (just think about the many ‘brake failure’ incidents we hear about in the news), having them computer-controlled and run with machine-like efficiency sounds like an excellent idea, but don’t expect to see the AXL on the road anytime soon. While the concept vehicle can drive on its own in simple environments such as open pit mines, it is still some way away from being able to function in the real world.
No matter which way you look—from passenger cars to heavy trucks—one trend is obvious. While cars and trucks will continue to drive us around in the future, human drivers will become pretty much obsolete very soon. In the case of trucks, that’s probably a really good thing.