Posted July 2, 2018

Autonomous wheel loader

Volvo’s Zeux concept wheel l was jointly developed by Volvo Construction Equipment and Lego Technic.

What started out as a fun, informal team building event to inspire the Volvo CE and LEGO Technic design teams in 2016, gradually evolved into a full-fledged autonomous concept wheel loader. Their goal: Design the construction machines of the future.

volvo Zeux concept autonomous wheel loader
The Volvo Zeux concept autonomous wheel loader.

The collaboration made it possible to test ideas for new types of construction machines, both in terms of functionality, scale, design and interaction and to bring a more human aspect to the artificial intelligence in big construction machines.

The Volvo Zeux concept wheel loader is a realistic next step in the exciting evolution of Volvo construction machines.

A focus group consisting of children helped in the process of creating the Zeux concept wheel loader. Looking at early drawings and models, the group gave feedback that led to the development of new, unique features. Two main features that the group decided on were the mapping drone and the adjustable camera boom mounted on the top of the vehicle, called “the Eye”.

The Eye
The Eye will show exactly where the vehicle’s “attention” is directed, which means it can make “eye contact” with humans and acknowledge their presence. This is something that does not come natural with autonomous vehicles, because a human normally can’t see all the sensors that allow an autonomous vehicle to navigate around stationary and moving objects. The Eye solves this problem, making the interaction between humans and machines as safe and intuitive as possible.

The drone
The drone hovers above the Zeux wheel loader, making it even more aware of its surroundings, making it possible for the Zeux to become aware of things that are out of its immediate line of sight and plan the work.

The motors
Because Zeux does not have an operator in a cab, it can perform movements of the chassis that would not be possible otherwise. The scissor frame can be lowered or raised as needed and can balance and gain the optimal position and angle for the task at hand. It keeps in balance using an automatic counterweight, which also doubles as the battery pack, altering its center of gravity as needed. On site this means that ZEUX can reach much higher than a conventional machine, which becomes useful while tipping. When filling the bucket the whole machine can lower itself, and when lifting back up the machine gets the lifting energy for free by automatically rebalancing the counterweight.

Fully electric
The Zeux autonomous wheel loader is fully electric; its 150 kWh battery allows it to operate between three to five hours before it will return to its induction charging station, eliminating the need for it to be plugged in in order for it to recharge. This allows the Zeux to operate more or less continuously, Volvo sources report.

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