Cloud Simulation Assists Active-Safety Development for Electric Refuse Truck

Digital design and testing help Oshkosh brand McNeilus develop its first electric refuse collection vehicle.

Multiple sensors are located on the exterior body of the new McNeilus Volterra ZSL. Its electrified drivetrain features two Allison e-Gen Power 100S e-axles in a tandem configuration and a 150-kW lithium-ion battery pack that can achieve a 90% charge in four hours with Level 2 charging. (Oshkosh)

North America’s first electric, fully integrated custom cab and chassis refuse collection vehicle — slated for initial customer deliveries in mid-2024 — is equipped with a standard advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS). “A typical garbage truck uses commercial off-the-shelf active safety technologies, but the electrified McNeilus Volterra ZSL was purpose-built with active safety technologies to serve our refuse collection customer,” said Brendan Chan, chief engineer for autonomy and active safety at Oshkosh Corporation, McNeilus’ parent company.

Side view of the Volterra shows the side arm lift for refuse collection. (Oshkosh)

“We wanted to make the safest and best refuse collection truck out there. And by using cloud-based simulation, we could accelerate the development of ADAS and other technologies,” Chan said in an interview with SAE Media during the 2024 dSPACE User Conference in Plymouth, Michigan.

Cloud-based simulation runs helped engineers in multiple ways, including determining where to position cameras and sensors for the ADAS technologies. Since a typical refuse collection route involves hundreds of stops and starts in dynamic residential areas, cramped alleys and busy business zones, achieving an appropriate field of view from the vehicle’s sensors for active-safety technologies was crucial.

Cloud-based simulation provides many product-development benefits, including richer scenarios, plentiful data and the capability to run multiple instances of the same simulation at the same time, according to OshKosh’s Brendan Chan. (Oshkosh)

“Throughout the garbage pick-up route, the refuse collection driver is continually cutting in and out of traffic, so the driver greatly benefits from being alerted to pedestrians and other vehicles, especially in the blind spots,” Chan said. Having standard ADAS on the Volterra was also relevant from a driver demographic perspective. “ADAS helps all drivers. But for 18- to 35-year-old drivers, they are already very used to active-safety technologies being pretty standard on passenger vehicles,” Chan said.

The Volterra’s ADAS technologies include blind spot detection, a 360-degree camera view system, park assist, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision avoidance with active braking, and lane departure warning. The refuse collection truck is fitted with eight cameras and nine radar sensors located on the vehicle body’s front, rear and sides.

High-resolution visualization

To help with sensor selection, camera/sensor placement and field-of-view decisions, engineers used dSPACE’s Aurelion software simulation. The tool is based on a 3D rendering engine that enables high-resolution visualization, including realistic lighting and weather effects. “If you activate the rain simulation, there’s an actual physical model of the laser beams interacting with falling raindrops. So, you don’t have to wait until it’s raining in real life to test,” Steffen Grotenhoefer, strategic product manager for data-driven development for dSPACE GmbH, said in an SAE Media interview.

dSPACE’s Aurelion sensor simulator is shown demonstrating support for dynamic weather conditions. (dSPACE)

As a multi-faceted software simulation tool, Aurelion can be used in various stages of product development, including variant testing. For example, if software programmers develop algorithms for a side-loader refuse collection truck, simulation can indicate if those same algorithms would appropriately serve a front-loader refuse collection truck.

“It would be important to know if a front loader’s two forks would obscure some parts of the field of view during operation, and that problematic issue could be visualized with simulation,” Chan said. The Volterra features a standard 6-ft (1.83-m) Zero Radius side lift arm, or a 12-ft (3.66-m) side lift arm.

Discovering potential design problems early in the development process is vital to saving money that would otherwise be consumed by product fixes done late in the development process. “You can do hardware-in-the-loop and software-in-the-loop testing later in the development program with real ECUs and production-intent code, but you can do a ton of ‘what if’ scenarios with simulation,” Chan said, stressing the importance of catching and correcting problematic issues early in product development. “Cloud simulation enables the testing and tracking of key performance indicators in bits and bytes before moving to nuts and bolts.”

Oshkosh is bringing electrification, autonomy, active safety and other technology choices to all of its specialty truck brands by fully leveraging cloud-based simulation. “You can run multiple instances of the same simulation and do it faster than real time,” Chan said.