Load & Haul

Supplier to demonstrate self-driving truck

Volvo Group recently announced that it would demonstrate its self-driving truck for the first time later this month.

“The Volvo Group has been conducting research into autonomous vehicles for several years and we are delighted to have already developed a solution that we believe will ultimately revolutionise the mining industry,” Torbjörn Holmström, Volvo’s chief technology officer and a member of the company’s group executive board, stated.

According to Volvo, the truck is a fully fitted out construction vehicle that can navigate and operate autonomously without any manual supervision. Holmström told Quarry that the truck was based on Volvo Trucks’ standard and popular FMX vehicle.

“It’s fully automated without a driver. It navigates both with global positioning and on-board sensors which means that it is robust and can be used both above the ground and below ground in the mining [environment],” he said.

“The base for this technology is our praised Volvo Dynamic Steering. Thanks to this, we can use a standard, high volume product vehicle like the Volvo FMX truck and just add on the kit with sensors and computers that are needed for the automatic functions. The technology for autonomous driving is possible to use also for off-road vehicles and we are doing research also in this area.”

Quarry potential

While the upcoming truck demonstration will be conducted in a simulated mining environment, Holmström said the technology could conceivably be used everywhere, including in quarries. However, he indicated it was too early to predict when Volvo would be able to offer the self-driving truck to customers.

“Since this is a research project, we will test it in a mining environment and learn from that experience,” he said. “For driving in controlled environments – for example, a mining area or in a terminal area – fully automated [trucks] could probably be introduced more rapidly and at a higher degree of automation than is possible on public roads. Large-scale introduction of fully automated commercial vehicles is far in the future.”

Holmström added, “I think from a general customer perspective, automated driving will increase transport productivity and be more fuel-efficient. Automated driving will also make the working environment safer for drivers [and] machine operators since there are fewer risks in hazardous environments.”

Volvo is not the only equipment manufacturer investigating autonomous vehicular technology. Komatsu, in partnership with mining company Rio Tinto, began testing its AHS (autonomous haulage system) trucks in Western Australia’s Pilbara region in December 2008 before officially deploying the vehicles in 2011.

Currently, there are also nearly 50 automated 793F Cat trucks operating at Fortesque Metals Group’s Solomon iron ore mine in the Pilbara, courtesy of an arrangement with Caterpillar and its WA dealer WesTrac.

“Automation is an exciting field of technology where advances are moving quickly,” Volvo president and CEO Martin Lundstedt commented. “Solutions already exist and we expect to see more autonomous solutions in the future.”

The Volvo self-driving truck demonstration will be held from 24 to 25 May in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was said that attendees would be given the opportunity to ride in the truck during the demonstration.

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