The competition to develop the first widely used commercial electric semi is heating up: This week Volvo unveiled their take on the future of trucking, an fully autonomous alternative to the all-electric Tesla Semi. The new truck, dubbed Vera, will be autonomous enough to operate without any sort of cabin at all, and instead will be navigated by a cloud service linked into a control center, with fully autonomous driving and navigation capabilities.

Vera is designed for short, but repetitive trips, according to their press release. That’s a point of distinction between it and the Tesla Semi, which is already crossing the country and offers two makes to give customers the option for a greater range of up to 500 miles, enough to travel from, say, Memphis all the way to Chicago.

Instead, Volvo envisions Vera as something that you’d use to shuttle between nearby ports, for example, or to ship things from place to place in megahubs. That said, it’s still in development and Mikael Karlsson, who heads autonomous solutions at Volvo Trucks says it’s still in development and there may be other use-cases as well.

volvo electric semi vera
Volvo's electric semi is so autonomous it won't even have a cabin. 

There’s a few other things that differentiate Vera, which will operate at low speeds in order to ensure safety. Its sensors can detect obstacles down to the centimeter, and progress is all monitored from the control center, though, if it’s mostly being used in industrial parks and in the middle of the night, it’s also likely that it wouldn’t be driving on roads with lots of pedestrians.

The Tesla Semi’s roadshow was well-received, with some important customers like Walmart tripling their pre-order. Volvo hopes to get its first electric truck for commercial use, a garbage truck, into operation this year.

There’s a few other things that differentiate Vera, which will operate at low speeds in order to ensure safety. Its sensors can detect obstacles down to the centimeter, and progress is all monitored from the control center, though, if it’s mostly being used in industrial parks and in the middle of the night, it’s also likely that it wouldn’t be driving on roads with lots of pedestrians.

As for its batteries, Vera will run using the same 100–300 kWh lithium-ion batteries that will power the Volvo FL Electric and the FE Electric, two fully electric manned trucks that the company debuted back in April. The FL is designed to be used in multiple applications and has a range of a little less than 200 miles, while the FE has a range of about 125 miles. These trucks will soon hit the streets in Volvo’s hometown of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Volvo
Volvo is readying two takes on the manned electric truck for commercial or municipal use.

For its part, the Tesla Semi will offer enhanced autopilot, which though it will be capable of avoiding collisions will still require a driver to be awake and alert the entire time. And while it’s not yet being put into commercial use, prototypes have already hit the roads prompting a number of sightings at supercharger stations and with various corporate buyers. That’s despite the fact that the Semi isn’t expected to enter production until next year.

though it isn’t expected to enter production until next year.