Six autonomous Volvo FH trucks will transport limestone over a five-kilometre stretch which includes tunnels. Picture: SUPPLIED
Six autonomous Volvo FH trucks will transport limestone over a five-kilometre stretch which includes tunnels. Picture: SUPPLIED

Volvo’s self-driving truck program has already opened up some interesting possibilities, with trials underway exploring autonomous sugar cane harvesting and garbage collection.

The Swedish automotive group  is now set to see how its robo trucks fare in real-world scenarios, after inking its first commercial deal with a Norwegian resource company to cart limestone away from its mine.

Volvo Trucks has signed a landmark agreement with Brønnøy Kalk AS in Norway to provide its first commercial autonomous solution transporting limestone from an open pit mine to a nearby port.

The solution for Brønnøy Kalk AS consists of limestone being transported by six self-driving Volvo FH trucks on a 5km stretch through tunnels between the mine itself and the crusher. Tests of this solution have been carried out successfully and will continue throughout 2018 to become fully operational by the end of 2019, according to Volvo Trucks.

The agreement follows recent successful automation projects involving mining, sugar-cane harvesting and refuse collection. Yet  this commercial solution is a first for Volvo Trucks. Rather than buying autonomous trucks, Brønnøy Kalk is buying a transport solution. That means it will pay Volvo for every ton of limestone that it delivers using six of the its driverless trucks.

Volvo’s self-driving trucks use an array of GPS, radar and LiDAR sensors to autonomously navigate their surroundings. Test runs with human supervisors were completed at the Norwegian mine before the keys were handed over to the computer for total autonomy.

“This is an important step for us,” says Raymond Langfjord, MD of the mine. “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. Going autonomous will greatly increase our competitiveness in a tough global market.”

Says Claes Nilsson, president of Volvo Trucks: “We are proud to be able to present an autonomous solution which will meet the challenges of our customers both in terms of safety, reliability and profitability. The global transport needs are continuously changing at a very high pace and the industry is demanding new and advanced solutions to stay ahead.

“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.”