Welcome to Third Angle, where you find us empowering first responders with augmented reality. With many governments around the world committing to 100% zero-emission truck sales by 2040, the sight and quiet sound of electric trucks is going to become more commonplace in the coming years. In 2022, in Europe alone, the market for heavy trucks grew by over 200%. At the forefront of the new electric future of haulage is Volvo Group. In Europe, Volvo Group is the market leader, and in North America, nearly half of all-electric trucks registered in 2022 were Volvo trucks. One of the challenges that this fast-paced growth presents is for first responders. Despite often having advanced safety features, in emergency situations, incidents involving electric vehicles can present them with a completely new set of risks.
Up until now, first responders arriving on the scene of an incident would have to identify the vehicle and flick through a file of 2D rescue cards to see diagrams showing where to locate hazards, how to disengage high-voltage areas, and how to disconnect the battery before cutting into the vehicle to get the occupants out. Imagine this in the chaos of an emergency scene. This all takes time, which could cost lives. But the team at Volvo Group have now built an augmented reality powered app that digitizes vehicle data for first responders and allows them to use AR to visualize important information while standing in front of a physical truck
Volvo has a really long history of safety going back to 1927 when it produced the first car at its Group Trucks Technologies headquarters in Gothenburg, and in 1928 when the company produced the first truck. In 1959, Volvo engineers developed the three-point seatbelt. They decided that it was such an important invention that they left the patent open so that anybody could use it. Traffic and product safety director at Volvo Trucks Anna Wrige Berling said, “In a sense, you get a piece of Volvo in every truck that you buy, or in every car that you buy.”
Traffic safety covers the features they have on their trucks that minimize the risk of accidents and injuries and product safety is about making sure that the trucks are safe to use not only for the people that are driving them but also for people that come in contact with them, like the rescue services. Wrige says, “At Volvo we have a history of trying to get a complete view of safety. It doesn’t end with our products. It also is our products in use. We need to look at not only the drivers and our customers, but anybody that comes in contact with our trucks.” The rescue services need to come there and make sure that the vehicle is safe to approach, so that they can, if needed, rescue people that are inside. Regardless of how this accident happened, rescue services and others need to solve the situation. Having a three-dimensional augmented reality view of the truck is an excellent way to use technology to make sure they have the information they need.
Vincent Barnoux, Volvo’s AR expert and business solution engineer says the company is looking at this new technology, which is still quite recent on the market, to develop use cases to bring value to our service technicians that will operate on the truck. “For example, seeing through the vehicle, or having the effect of seeing through the vehicle, will help users to locate precisely where the components are and the way are each how the truck is assembled for safety reasons,” he said. “We are able to see through the vehicle and guide non-expert users on our trucks to better understand the product.”
Electric trucks come with specific challenges. A 600-volt lithium-ion battery is not something that you want to come in contact with. After an accident, when things are broken, it’s important to know where the power is located because rescue services need to sometimes cut the cab open to get people out. The batteries also come with risks from the chemicals in the batteries which present a risk of a thermal event or a thermal propagation. And then that is, of course, also important for rescue services. If lithium-ion batteries are deformed severely, that can lead to a thermal runaway or potentially even to thermal propagation. And that is, of course, extremely important for rescue services to know about and to be able to handle.
The app enables the user to immobilise the vehicle before taking them through a series of questions. Is the cab accessible? If not, then the app will guide the user to the emergency loop via a guiding ribbon to the exact place where the user needs to go. It’s important that they understand clearly and visually where to cut and cut only the small wire and not the big power wattage, for example. But through augmented reality, you can quickly locate it and make the vehicle safe. AR expert and business solution engineer Vincent Barnoux says, “When the rescue services and the first responders come to a road event, they will enter a chassis identity or tracking identifier. That’s really key to download the correct data from the cloud. The app will then dynamically retrieve and download the correct information for that particular truck to a phone or tablet.”
The need for this information, in particular when it comes to electric trucks, is because it’s a new technology. Looking further into the future, many years from now, rescue services will be just as familiar with electric trucks as they are today with diesel trucks. For now, one important aspect of this app and augmented reality and the 3D version is not only that it’s meant to be used at the accident site but as a training tool for rescue services. The use of augmented reality has the power to revolutionise emergency response. PTC’s advanced AR content development tool Vuforia plays a crucial part in this. PTC’s JJ Lechleiter says, “Safety and innovation are synonymous with the Volvo brand, which is why the app incorporates Vuforia, PTC’s market-leading enterprise AR solution, which allows the app to overlay digital information on top of the physical world. By doing that, they can connect frontline workers with the information that they need.
Customers use Vuforia to reduce the amount of time that they spend on a service visit, or decrease the number of truck rolls, saving time and saving money. Within manufacturing, we see customers performing faster or more accurate inspections. And a common use case is training, where we see customers saving time, saving money in training, by effectively providing a digital mentor to aid with their training needs. In Volvo’s case, they’re using Vuforia to provide their first responders with the information that they need in a fast and intuitive way, keeping them as safe and effective as possible. It provides instant access to the right information that’s relevant to the problem that they need to solve. It’s quicker than using a PDF, or certainly paper documentation. The responder can understand visually what they need to do, they don’t need to translate 2D into their physical environment – in other words, look at the screen and try and apply that to the truck in front of them.
As you can imagine, getting the right information to the first responder for the configuration of the truck that they’re standing in front of is critical. Volvo utilise their existing 3D CAD data that was used to design and manufacture these trucks. They don’t have to author all of this data for their first responder application – they can pull that data from their product lifecycle management software, which in their case is PTC’s Windchill.
Windchill software manages all of the different configurations of this data for Volvo. In other words, it handles all of that complexity. And now Volvo, by utilising the existing data, they were able to launch with support for 1,500 different variations of those trucks, and quickly scale to over 4,000 with the potential for much, much more. That’s really powerful. Because once you have access to the data, you can now repurpose that same existing data, that same pipeline, for other use cases and other benefits, including the service and manufacturing use cases. Access to this data, access to these types of tools, is really what’s creating the advantages for today’s connected worker.
Huge thanks to Anna Wrige Berling and Vincent Barnoux for showing us around the Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg.
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This is an 18Sixty production for PTC. Executive producer is Jacqui Cook. Recording by Lasse Edfast. Sound design and editing by Clarissa Maycock. And music by Rowan Bishop.