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Volvo Trucks’ Vera program is figuring out how to make money with autonomy – Roadshow

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Unlike most autonomous vehicle developers, Volvo Trucks has found out how to put its Vera to work and make money doing it.

We've covered Volvo Trucks' autonomous Vera platform before, but now, we're getting a better idea of how Volvo is managing its relationships with its pilot program customers and how it plans to make money from an emerging technology, thanks to a report published Wednesday by Reuters.

So, just as a refresher, Vera is a fully autonomous, electric semi-truck that is being targeted (at least initially) at a particular kind of short-haul trucking called drayage. These drayage jobs are short, repetitive and often done without ever driving on a public road. It's kind of a best-case scenario for self-driving technology right now.

"There's a lot of uncertainties, and that's why we believe the right way to develop autonomous is with commercial pilots where we partner up with customers, go for real implementations, and learn from that," said Sasko Cuklev, Volvo Trucks' autonomous solutions director, in a statement to Reuters.

Volvo has already lined up its first commercial pilot program with a company in Norway called Broennoey Kalk AS, in which the Vera truck will shuttle limestone from a mine to a nearby port.

Volvo will be responsible for not only providing the trucks, but also setting up the infrastructure which includes a monitoring tower, a remote driver and vehicle charging, as well as providing maintenance and insurance. In turn, Broennoey will pay Volvo per ton of limestone transported. It's kind of like a cross between a car subscription program and a usage-based insurance program.

This makes the operation low-risk for the client since it's not paying for work that's not being done, and Volvo is making money during what would typically be another test phase for an already expensive-to-run program. It's kind of brilliant.

The pilot program with Broennoey Kalk AS is set to begin in the winter of 2019.

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