The change has just begun
Hans Persson and Michael Balthasar at Group Trucks Technology talk about new opportunities and large-scale changes.
They both work within Technology and Innovation and they smile when they are asked whether there is a limit to what new technology can accomplish in the future.
“Things are only just beginning. The new technology is going to have a huge impact on the Group and it’s going to change our vehicles, our production and our aftersales market dramatically,” says Hans Persson.
The two of them talk about a number of important future trends.
One example is totally new materials in which nanotechnology plays a very interesting role, according to Michael Balthasar. Nanotechnology involves manipulating and building up materials at nuclear level in order to produce new or improved characteristics. This type of technology is used, for example, in electronic components, solar cells and medical equipment for diagnostics, but it is also becoming increasingly relevant in the automotive industry.
“Using nanotechnology, it’s possible to influence the structure of a material in a completely different way compared with today. You can, for example, produce a material that ‘heals’ itself or is dirt repellent. Very practical if you scratch a truck or don’t want to wash your vehicle,” he explains.
They also envisage that the actual production of materials is going to change. The opportunity to print parts in 3D may sound like a dream, but, according to Michael Balthasar, it will not be impossible in the future.
“It is very definitely a possible scenario and it would be incredibly important for aftersales. Instead of investing money in a range of different tools to produce individual parts, you could produce them, decide on the appropriate material, perhaps plastic or metal, print them and deliver them to a waiting customer using a 3D printer connected to a computer,” he says.
Another important technological change relates to interaction between man and machine. There are TV games today in which the players use the whole of their bodies to hit the ball in tennis or jump over obstacles. The same technology is going to be used increasingly inside and outside vehicles as an aid to drivers – to turn on the windscreen wipers by making a sweeping gesture with the arm, for example.
Hans Persson also talks about instructions to the driver directly on the windscreen or on a pair of glasses or contact lenses.
“New inventions are literally pouring out from IS/IT and the telecom industry. Things that were new two years ago are already outdated and we need to keep up. The best thing we can do is to collaborate with them.”
The Volvo Group is taking part in a number of projects relating to future vehicles and technology. Some of them involve organisations within the EU.
Volvo Buses is working within the framework of the “European Bus System of the Future” research programme to find new solutions for the public transport of the future. A bus with a more attractive interior, a wider entrance and a central driver’s area is currently being tested in Gothenburg.
Within the “Concept Truck” programme, trials are being conducted using a Volvo truck in which the driver can let the steering wheel go and “connect him/herself” to a radio-controlled convoy, while, in the EU-funded SARTRE project, vehicles participate in what is known as vehicle platooning, where they are linked to a leading vehicle.
Read more about the Volvo Group’s journey into the future at Tech World