Volvo deploys self-driving trucks in Norwegian mine
In one of the first deployments of autonomous vehicle technology in industry, Volvo will use self-driving trucks to transport limestone at a Norwegian mine, the car firm has announced.
Currently in testing and due to be running by the end of 2019, the mining firm Brønnøy Kalk will be buying the service as a “travel solution”, paying by the ton of quarry delivered, rather than for the vehicles themselves.
Therefore, Volvo will oversee and manage the operation of a total of six autonomous trucks over a five-kilometer journey (through tunnels) between the mine and a processing plant at a nearby port.
During the initial tests, a safety driver will sit behind the wheel, but they will be completely driverless by the time of launch.
According to Brønnøy Kalk, the service from Volvo offers a way for the mine to increase efficiency and productivity in the long term.
“This is an important step for us,” said Raymond Langfjord, Managing Director of the mine, adding that the firm has a “clear vision” to take advantage of new technologies and digital solutions to remain competitive.
“Going autonomous will greatly increase our competitiveness in a tough global market,” Langfjord added.
Volvo Trucks’ president, Claes Nilsson, said: “The global transport needs are continuously changing at a very high pace and the industry is demanding new and advanced solutions to stay ahead.
“Our aim is to be the leader of the development of products and services to respond to these demands.”
As noted by MIT Technology Review, however, it’s not the first time self-driving trucks have been used in the real word. In 2016, at the time of the original report, mining company Rio Tinto was deploying 73 autonomous haul trucks to transport iron ore across four mines on the Western coast of Australia.
In the wider scope of autonomous vehicle technology, self-driving trucks have a good chance of wider adoption before self-driving cars for two reasons. Firstly, being able to work 24 hours a day means they can serve as a more cost-effective alternative to human workers, as well as being able to work in more dangerous environments.
Secondly, they can be operated exclusively on private land with open roads, whereas self-driving cars will be required to safely navigate highly-congested and hazardous urban environments.
That said, there are business cases for both; the US retail giant Walmart recently teamed up with Ford to trial a self-driving, last-mile delivery services for its customers.
“It is exciting to reach this point where we introduce autonomous solutions, says Sasko Cuklev, Director Autonomous Solutions at Volvo Trucks.
“By working in a confined area on a predetermined route, we can find out how to get the best out of the solution and tailor it according to specific customer needs. This is all about collaborating to develop new solutions, providing greater flexibility and efficiency as well as increased productivity.”