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Volvo’s new semi trucks now have more autonomous features and Apple CarPlay

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Trucking likely to be first broad application of highly automated features

Volvo

Volvo unveiled its new VNL series of semi trucks today with a host of high-tech goodies that are sure to appeal to many long-haul truck drivers. Volvo Truck, a separate entity from the Swedish automaker’s car group, is adding a suite of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) to its truck lines as standard equipment. This includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Advanced driver assist systems are quickly becoming popular for passenger vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla and Cadillac, but have yet to make their way into long-haul trucks — at least not as standard features. Many pieces are available as options or aftermarket retrofits for truck fleets. Volvo claims to be the first OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to offer these semi-autonomous features as standard equipment.

“It’s good to see truck makers starting to make this technology more widely available since truck drivers might be more susceptible to the sort of accidents these systems protect against due to their long hours behind the wheel,” said Sam Abuelsamid, a research analyst for Navigant. “Long-haul trucking is likely to be one of the first broad applications of automated driving technologies.”

Indeed, there are widespread fears that autonomous technology will lead to enormous displacement among truck drivers. A recent study found that automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers as much as 50 to 70 percent in the US and Europe by 2030, with 4.4 million of the 6.4 million professional drivers on both continents rendered obsolete. These fears are heightened as tech companies introduce eye-catching, cabin-less prototypes designed to cut the driver completely out of the equation.

Last year, Volvo released a video that featured a concept FMX truck designed to drive itself through difficult conditions, like 4,000 feet below the surface in Sweden’s Kristineberg mine. The driverless truck was shown braking itself just short of Torbjörn Holmström, Volvo’s chief technology officer, in a display of the truck maker’s confidence in its technology.

But we’re not there yet. Volvo says its advanced driver assist system combines camera and radar sensors to detect metallic objects and vehicles that are stationary or vehicles braking in front of a truck. It also works with cruise control to help the truck driver maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles. If a forward vehicle slows down, Volvo semi-autonomous system will alert the driver and, if necessary, reduce throttle, apply the brake, and downshift the transmission.

The truck’s infotainment system includes a five-inch screen that provides trip data and diagnostics. An additional seven-inch touchscreen, with navigation and rear-facing backup camera, is optional. Also optional in the Volvo VNL series is Apple CarPlay, making it the second truck line to add Apple’s in-dash system after Mitsubishi’s Scannia announced the same last April.