Automotive

Watch Volvo's autonomous truck navigate itself through a dark mine

Watch Volvo's autonomous truck...
The Volvo FMX will be tested at the Boliden mine in Kristineberg, Sweden
The Volvo FMX will be tested at the Boliden mine in Kristineberg, Sweden
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The Volvo FMX will be tested at the Boliden mine in Kristineberg, Sweden
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The Volvo FMX will be tested at the Boliden mine in Kristineberg, Sweden
Volvo says the FMX is the first autonomous truck in the world to be operated underground
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Volvo says the FMX is the first autonomous truck in the world to be operated underground
Six sensors, including GPS, radar and LiDAR, are fitted to the truck
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Six sensors, including GPS, radar and LiDAR, are fitted to the truck
In the event that an obstacle is detected, the truck will stop and contact its control center
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In the event that an obstacle is detected, the truck will stop and contact its control center
Of the sensors fitted to the truck, at least two are said to be able to monitor any point of its surroundings at any one time
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Of the sensors fitted to the truck, at least two are said to be able to monitor any point of its surroundings at any one time
Volvo says the technology employed will ultimately help to optimize mining logistics
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Volvo says the technology employed will ultimately help to optimize mining logistics
Such trucks will be able to operate continuously, eliminate congestion and cut the time taken for loading and unloading
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Such trucks will be able to operate continuously, eliminate congestion and cut the time taken for loading and unloading

Earlier in the year, Volvo unveiled a fully autonomous construction truck that it planned to test in underground mines and that it said would "revolutionize the mining industry." Today, it has revealed more details of the planned testing and released footage of the truck operating beneath the Earth's surface.

The Volvo FMX is part of a research project aimed at improving safety and productivity in places like mines, ports and other restricted and controlled environments that have a lot of repetitive driving.

The testing will take place at the Boliden mine in Kristineberg, Sweden. The FMX, which Volvo says is actually the first autonomous truck in the world to be tested underground, will cover a distance of 7 km (4 mi) into the mine and will reach a depth of 1,320 m (4,330 ft).

Six sensors, including GPS, radar and LiDAR, are fitted to the truck
Six sensors, including GPS, radar and LiDAR, are fitted to the truck

Six sensors, including GPS, radar and LiDAR, are fitted to the truck to continuously monitor its surroundings. The system creates a map of the mine's geometry and uses it to create a route through the tunnels for the truck to follow, as well to inform steering, gear changes and speed. Each visit allows the truck to further refine its model of the mine and to subsequently optimize its route and fuel consumption.

Of the sensors fitted to the truck, at least two – and often three – are said to be able to monitor any point of its surroundings at any given time. In the event that an obstacle is detected, the truck will stop and contact its control center. To demonstrate this, Volvo has released a video showing member of the Volvo Group's executive board and its chief technology officer Torbjörn Holmström standing in the path of the truck.

Behind the Scenes - The world's first self-driving truck in an underground mine

"No matter what type of vehicle we develop, safety is always our primary concern and this also applies to self-driving vehicles," says Holmström. "I was convinced the truck would stop, but naturally I felt a knot in my stomach until the truck applied its brakes."

Volvo says the technology employed will ultimately help to optimize mining logistics. Such trucks will be able to operate continuously, eliminate congestion and cut the time taken for loading and unloading. In addition, the trucks need not wait for mines to be ventilated after blasting to continue operating, unlike people.

The testing at Boliden is due to begin soon and Volvo says it plans to have three such trucks being tested within a year.

Sources: Volvo Group, Volvo Trucks

3 comments
Bob Flint
Why does it need so many lights, steering wheel, etc, for the sensors, or the humans ridding shotgun?
Derek Howe
Cool, the best jobs for robots are the 3 D's: Dull, Dirty, Dangerous...so this fits right in.
Eric the Red
It probably has lights because the video would be extremly boring in natural mine light.