Volvo Trucks says it is successfully testing six autonomous trucks that are hauling limestone from an open-pit mine in Velfjord, Norway.
The Swedish truck manufacturer says in a news release its agreement with mining company Brønnøy Kalk AS is its first commercial solution involving autonomous trucks.
The FH-model trucks travel 3 miles (5 km) through tunnels and outdoors from the mine to a crusher which pulverizes the limestone before it is loaded onto a nearby ship. A safety driver sits in the cab during testing, but in actual use the trucks are completely autonomous and are managed by the operator of a wheel loader.
Under the agreement the mining company does not own the trucks but instead buys a hub-to-hub transportation service and pays per metric ton of limestone transported. Volvo Trucks takes responsibility for transportation of the limestone.
Tests will continue and the solution is to become fully operational by the end of 2019, Volvo Trucks says.
“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.”
Adds Raymond Langfjord, the mine’s managing director: “This is an important step for us. The competition in the industry is tough. We are continuously looking to increase our efficiency and productivity long-term, and we have a clear vision of taking advantage of new opportunities in technology and digital solutions.
“We were searching for a reliable and innovative partner that shares our focus on sustainability and safety,” he says. “Going autonomous will greatly increase our competitiveness in a tough global market.”
Volvo Trucks says the agreement follows recent successful automation projects involving mining, sugar cane harvesting and refuse collection.