In a unique pay-for-work agreement, Volvo Trucks will use driverless trucks to take over mining tasks perilous to human operators.
Six autonomous Volvo FH trucks are driving themselves 3.1 miles to transport limestone from a Norwegian mine to a crusher, the Swedish truck maker said Tuesday. The trucks are managed by the operator of a wheel loader that transfers material from stockpiles to trucks.
Instead of buying the trucks, mine operator Brønnøy Kalk AS will pay Volvo for each ton of limestone hauled out of the quarry.
Testing is underway, and the trucks are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019.
The autonomous trucks have successfully traveled through tunnels and outdoors between the two Brønnøy Kalk AS hubs in Velfjord, Norway.
“We are 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,” said Raymond Langfjord, managing director of the mine. “Going autonomous will greatly increase our competitiveness in a tough global market.”
Autonomous hauling in Australia
In Australia, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group all use unmanned trucks to haul ore.
Caterpillar Inc. has been selling autonomous mining equipment there for several years. Its Cat Command system enables a remote operator to control multiple large dozers.
The technology has improved hauling productivity by 30 percent and removes the human operator from potentially hazardous environments.
Ten fully autonomous mining trucks have safely moved more than 700 million tons of material over the last five years, Caterpillar said.
“It’s a really good application for a constrained environment that is dangerous and does not have issues like cross-traffic to deal with,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Navigant Research. “It is a good place to do early applications of autonomous technology.”
The mining and construction industries are demanding advanced solutions, said Claes Nilsson, president of 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,” said Sasko Cuklev, Volvo Trucks director of autonomous solutions.