Volkswagen Truck & Bus has officially entered the era of autonomous vehicles. The first vehicle from the brand capable of traveling without the need for direct interference from the driver is currently being tested. The vehicle is Constellation 31.280 8x4 and will be used by harvesters in fields and sugarcane crops in the interior of São Paulo, in Brazil, with a focus on providing greater productivity and efficiency in operations. With this first step, VWTB is also making advances with regards to the last of the three pillars that make up the future of transport: electric, connected and autonomous. The onboard technology developed by VWTB’s engineers allows the truck to be able to maintain its planned trajectory, control speed, recognize signs, obstacles and even pedestrians without input from the driver, thereby providing maximum precision, efficiency and safety during all operational stages.
In order to achieve this level of operation, the vehicle relies on electric power steering that is able to interface with its onboard technology. In addition to its electric power steering system, the vehicle is equipped with an advanced real-time geopositioning system (Real Time Kinematic or RTK), which identifies its position and follows a pre-programmed route with an accuracy of 2.5 cm while presenting minimal variations, a feat that is impossible to achieve in human vehicle operation.
Cruise control is another solution used to provide safety and precision in operating the vehicle. The system determines and maintains the speed that is to be reached during operation of the vehicle. The driver is also able to alter the vehicle’s speed using a keypad interface. Even with autonomous mode enabled, the driver is able to control all aspect of operating the vehicle: disabling self-driving and retaking control of the vehicle at any time.
Another important advantage that is currently being tested is VWTB’s exclusive camera system, which replaces traditional mirrors and offers a 360° view around the vehicle, as well as provides increased visibility while operating the vehicle at night. Drivers are able to navigate and make adjustments to the autonomous system inside the vehicle’s cabin in a practical and ergonomic manner using an intuitive and simple interface. This allows drivers to optimize the productivity of the vehicles operated.
VWTB relied on the expertise of the engineering team from its research and development center in Resende (RJ) for the integration of automation systems, software development and control modules, electric power steering, reinforced suspension, a cabin with new items such as a bench seat with integrated seatbelts, easy-to-clean seats from the Constellation family’s well-regarded Robust package, an exclusive night vision camera system that replaces mirrors, and a powertrain with automated transmission. The vehicle was also developed through partnerships with the companies RAVEN, in the case of the geopositioning system, and BMB in customizing the vehicle for use in the harvesting of sugarcane, in addition to new solutions such as 3-meter wide gauge axles.
Tailor-made for operation in the sugarcane industry
The Constellation 31.280 8x4 will be used by sugarcane harvesters for field transshipment operations, subsequently loading the cane onto larger vehicles that are responsible for transporting it to the plants. The vehicle’s autonomous navigation system, with provides an accuracy of 2.5 cm combined with 3-meter wide gauge axles, reduces damage caused to seedlings during operations due to greater precision in harvesting operations, respecting the distance between rows and preventing the rows in which the seedlings are located from being crushed by the vehicle’s tires.
The Constellation 31.280’s front axle provides a total capacity of 8 tons, and its rear axle, which is fitted with a reduced wheel hub, has a capacity of 13 tons. The vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is 42 tons, and it makes use of high flotation tires that minimize compacting of the soil and increase traction. The vehicle’s 3-meter wide gauge axles, combined with its reinforced suspension, which has been adjusted for this type of operation, provide increased lateral stability in all conditions. The Constellation 31.280’s 8x4 traction system, with the addition of the renowned D08 with 280 cv engine with automated, guarantees a high level of performance on any terrain, in addition to increased comfort for drivers and availability and durability of the components of the powertrain system.
The vehicle is also equipped with a hill start aid (HSA) system that increases safety and facilitates operation of the vehicle. The Constellation 31.280’s sugarcane kit provides the model with several items that allow the truck to be adapted for operation in the sugar-alcohol segment, including a "bush break" front end protection grille; a vertical exhaust system, agricultural pre-filter, lower radiator "steel chest" guard, a guard that protects the alternator from straw; thermal protection in the vehicle’s pneumatic system piping (brake system), a radiator protection screen, air intakes for use in cleaning the cabin and the front grille, an electrical wiring harness offering robust protection, power take-off, among other features.