Volvo Trucks, the world's number two in heavy-duty trucks, on Wednesday gave its vision of the future of goods transportation.

The company, which is a separate entity to Volvo Cars, rolled out a fully self-driving, electric semi concept.

It's called Vera, and it's been designed as a replacement for trucks that move large volumes of goods between fixed hubs such as at a port facility or rail yard or mining site. The goal is to make the process not only more efficient but safer and cleaner.

The Vera is designed to fit existing trailers but you'll notice that it is much more compact as there's no need for a driver's cabin. It features all of the various sensors required for self-driving and is monitored via a central transport control hub.

Volvo Vera concept

Volvo Vera concept

All of these systems are designed to ensure the Vera can locate its current position to within centimetres, monitor in detail and analyze what is happening with other road users, and then respond with high accuracy. And Volvo Trucks envisages multiple Veras operating at the same site.

The transport control hub continuously monitors the progress of the trucks and keeps an accurate watch of each vehicle’s position, the batteries’ charge, load content, service requirements and a number of other parameters. As with an industrial production process, speed and progress are tailored to avoid unnecessary waiting and to increase efficiency. And as it is automated, the solution can enable round-the-clock operations, helping to create a continuous flow of goods. The electric powertrains also result in less noise and local emissions.

Volvo Trucks in the near future will further develop the concept together with selected customers. While no timeline has been given, Volvo Trucks says we'll initially see something like the Vera operating over short distances in repetitive flows. As more experience is gained and the technology advances, the applications will be expanded.

“Everything suggests that the global need for transportation will continue to significantly increase in the coming decade,” Volvo Trucks President Claes Nilsson said. “The transport system we are developing can be an important complement to today’s solutions and can help meet many of the challenges faced by society, transport companies and transport buyers.”