Volvo Autonomous Solutions has predicted that quarries and light mining will implement automated transport first.
Autonomous transport that does not require an operator is proving to be a challenge for the industry to adopt, according to Volvo Autonomous Solutions.
Volvo Autonomous Solutions was created on 1 January, 2020 to develop and commercialise Volvo Group’s autonomous transport machines. The company will also support customers with autonomous machines, including infrastructure, control tower, repair and maintenance and virtual driver solutions.
The company has predicted the shift to truly autonomous machines will require the structure of operations – including how work in quarries is conducted – to be completely overhauled.
“Automation has struggled in the mainstream automotive world because they are trying to get autonomous vehicles to work everywhere and safely co-exist with all the variables of life – cars, trucks, bikes, people, dogs, cats – you name it,” Volvo Autonomous Solutions’ head of off-road Perjohan Rosdahl said.
According to Rosdahl, companies will have to smart small – in areas such as quarries which tend to operate over short circuits.
“Solving all these issues at the same time is proving to be an enormously complex challenge, even for the world’s biggest automotive and technology companies,” he said.
“Our approach is to start small, in a tightly confined environment and build on our successes over time. A perfect place to start is quarries, which have clearly defined load and dump locations over generally short circuits.”
Volvo Autonomous Solutions is currently working with Volvo Group’s other business areas to streamline its autonomous drive platforms and coding languages across the range, allowing all machines to be “autonomous enabled”.
Uwe Müller, Volvo Autonomous Solutions’ sales and marketing lead for off-road solutions, said quarries will help standardise the process of autonomous transport.
“To reduce the complexity of the world we need to standardise the process as much as possible,” Müller said. “In quarries, we can do this as they are in a confined area, are highly regulated and it’s easier to separate autonomous transport from other processes,” he said. “Involving loading and dumping, the process itself is simple and repetitive.”
Rosdahl said it would also help remove more people from hazardous locations. “With the right customer partners, the next step could be underground mining and tunnel applications – autonomous machines (especially electric ones) work just as well in the dark as in the light, and it’s good to remove people as much as possible from these hazardous locations,” he said.
“From there we could focus on large earthmoving projects that are still contained but have more variables to cope with, as our technology becomes more embedded over time.”