WORLD FIRST: Volvo CE unveils cabless, autonomous asphalt compactor prototype

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Volvo Construction Equipment unveiled its latest autonomous concept vehicle today – the CX01 single-drum asphalt compactor – a cabless, hybrid vehicle designed to work as part of a small fleet, either under remote control, or fully autonomously.

The CX01 concept – launched at The Utility Expo in Louisville, Kentucky – utilizes one vibratory asphalt compactor drum that’s actually two independent halves (called a split-drum) kept upright by a self-balancing control system.

The machine is fitted with both a diesel engine and an energy storage system, making it a flexible electric hybrid solution. It can be operated in diesel-only, hybrid or fully electric modes.

Proving Volvo CE’s capacity for innovation across a variety of segments, this concept machine is the latest in the Concept Lab family of prototype machines that push the boundaries of conventional construction equipment.

“While the CX01 is a conceptual product, the research and development that have gone into it will benefit customers in other ways,” says Justin Zupanc, head of the Asphalt Compaction Development Team, Volvo CE. “It’s exciting for our engineers to push themselves to develop new and innovative ideas, and we’ve had personnel from the U.S. and Europe involved in the design, build and test phases of this concept.”

Customer-centered design

The CX01 concept provides an opportunity to fundamentally rethink the paving process to address customer needs, both improving the conditions for the operator and increasing productivity. By redesigning the compactors themselves, the operator is removed from the unit — reducing exposure to vibration, noise, dust and other associated environmental conditions — and freed up to autonomously control a fleet of CX units working together to compact asphalt surfaces.

A fleet of these units deployed on larger jobs could work together and communicate not only between each CX unit but also to other pieces of equipment on the site. The machines could survey the jobsite, report on the conditions of the mat — things like density, temperature and passes — and determine when and where to compact.

Compaction cycles can be streamlined, costs reduced and more agile work patterns set up, thanks to the machine’s compact design and precise maneuverability. Rolling pattern, weight and number of rollers can all easily be adjusted to match the width, thickness and speed of paving operation — providing a complete paving solution for whatever the job might be, from light infrastructure to highway construction. The CX01 can be matched with Volvo’s existing Co-Pilot system so that all work can be handled remotely via a touchscreen interface. In addition, it uses GPS position tracking to monitor job performance and help customers better hit their productivity targets.

While the CX01 concept has been purely an exploration, some learnings could be applied to future products.

“Remote control and autonomous operations are areas of focus for us in R&D. Also, while the low-friction water reduction coating on the drum shell is theoretical, it could be a huge benefit on larger machines to decrease the amount of water needed,” says Zupanc. “It is exciting to think how the theories showcased on the CX01 could be realized on compaction production units in the future.”

Attendees of The Utility Expo in Louisville have an opportunity to see the CX01 compactor concept up close in the Volvo booth, K129 , and a machine walkaround will be held Sept. 28 as part of the company’s virtual experience.

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Tom Stone is Editor of the iVT brand – which includes digital and print editions of a quarterly magazine and the Advanced Lift-truck supplement, as well as ivtinternational.com, which is updated daily. Tom has met and interviewed some of the world's leading industrial vehicle OEM presidents, CEOs and MDs, and takes great pride in cementing iVT's place as the leading forum for debate within the industry, a reputation that his been built up over the brand's 25-year history.

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