Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Volvo CE and LEGO Technic® teamed up with a group of kids to create ZEUX, the fully-electric, autonomous concept wheel loader of the future.
"The Eye" is an adjustable camera boom mounted on top of the vehicle, designed to show where the ZEUX is "looking" and establish "eye contact" with humans to acknowledge their presence.
This safety feature does not come naturally with autonomous vehicles, because people normally cannot see all the sensors that allow machines to maneuver around stationary and moving objects. "The Eye" solves this problem and makes the interaction between humans and machines safe and intuitive.
The drone hovers above the ZEUX wheel loader to increase its range of vision. This awareness of the surrounding areas allows it to account for things out of its immediate line of sight and plan the work accordingly.
ZEUX is designed with four 25kW electric hub motors for traction: one at each wheel. The autonomy of this machine requires balance and stability, similar to human feet, which the hub motors provide.
The hub motors also allow the machine to set the direction of the rim-pull of the wheels when working in a pile, for example. ZEUX is also equipped with Ackermann steering on both axels to gain even more stability when in full turn, which increases its capacity.
Since ZEUX does not have an operator in a cab, it can move in ways that would not be possible otherwise. The frame, dubbed a "scissor frame" by Volvo CE, can raise and lower as needed to gain the optimal balance, position, and angle for every task.
In order to maintain this balance, ZEUX moves the counterweight, which doubles as a battery pack, to alter its center of gravity on demand. Onsite, this means ZEUX can reach higher than conventional machines, which becomes useful while tipping. It can lower itself while filling the bucket, then rise while lifting the load. It gains lifting energy for free by automatically re-balancing the counterweight.
The Origin Story
The idea originated from a team-building event between Volvo and LEGO® Technic design teams in 2016 and developed into a full-scale project with a concept wheel loader that could shape the future the construction equipment industry.
A focus group of children assisted with the creation process and reviewed early drawings and models to help narrow down and develop the features Volvo CE and LEGO® Technic would ultimately include in the final draft. The group ultimately decided on the mapping drone and "the Eye."
"The collaboration made it possible to test ideas for new types of construction machines in terms of functionality, scale, design, and interaction, and to bring a more human aspect to the artificial intelligence in big construction machines," writes Volvo CE. "ZEUX is a realistic step in the exciting evolution of our construction machines and a sneak peak into the future of electromobility."
In addition to partnering with Volvo CE to develop ZEUX, the LEGO® Technic team also introduced a ZEUX toy building kit, available in stores across the United States in August 2019.
Stay tuned for more updates about the ZEUX project and the fully-electric Volvo-branded compact wheel loaders and compact excavators slated to launch in 2020. In the meantime, contact your local Highway sales representative for information our current lineup of Volvo wheel loaders and other equipment.
Article Courtesy: Volvo CE