Automotive

Volvo's self-driving trucks are going underground

Volvo's self-driving trucks ar...
The truck can operate fully autonomously both above and below ground
The truck can operate fully autonomously both above and below ground
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The truck can operate fully autonomously both above and below ground
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The truck can operate fully autonomously both above and below ground

Not content with its plans to test autonomous cars on public roads in China and the UK, Volvo wants to test self-driving trucks in underground mines too. The Volvo Group has developed a fully autonomous construction truck that it says can work without supervision.

The truck has been developed in partnership with Saab-owned tech consultancy Combitech, as part of a research and development project. Member of Volvo's group executive board and chief technology officer Torbjörn Holmström says such vehicles could improve the productivity of businesses, as they can work round-the-clock without tiring, unlike human drivers.

"The Volvo Group has been conducting research into autonomous vehicles for several years and we are delighted to have already developed a solution that we believe will ultimately revolutionize the mining industry," explains Holmström. "We expect to be able to significantly increase our customers' productivity while at the same time improving fuel efficiency and safety."

The truck is fitted with GPS technology and LiDAR sensors, which continuously scan its surroundings. Using data from these sources, it is able to navigate fixed and moving obstacles, as well as operate fully autonomously both above and below ground.

Source: Volvo Group

5 comments
Bob Flint
Driving around underground or above ground, what does the truck actually deliver? How is it loaded/unloaded? Is this really cheaper than an automated rail/cart system for mining for example? Who goes in once the sensors fail underground to get the beast out?
agulesin
I'm sure GPS is going to be really useful underground...
Nik
If the truck is autonomous, why does it have a cab?
Mel Tisdale
Will it have an autonomous canary to indicate when the exhaust fumes have reached a critical level? Of course it will work underground, angulesin's comment notwithstanding. If it doesn't, why on earth are the letting their technology loose on the open road as they test their passenger cars fitted with it? I doubt that they will be allowed to have humans sharing the space with these machines, anyway, which will mess up any improvements in efficiency that might be achieved otherwise.
Jack Decker
Bob Flint, no, actually an autonomous truck is a LOT cheaper than a rail system. Not only cheaper but more quicker to use (no rails to install) and more flexible (no need for rails to be rerouted). As for who goes in once the truck stops, it is called a tow truck. Agulesin, even with above ground autonomous driving, GPS is a secondary system. All autonomous vehicles to date use previously-stored road maps to navigate by. GPS is simply a secondary confirmation system. Highway tunnels alone require this. Nik, probably in case sensors go out. A human driver can get in and get the truck out of the mine. Also, there might be an issue of driving to and from a mine on public roads and right now laws require a driver behind the wheel. Mel Tisdale, modern mines already have air sensors through out them. Canaries haven't been used for a VERY long time.