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 automaker 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.

What's interesting about this deal is that rather than Brønnøy Kalk AS, a Norwegian calcium carbonate producer, buying Volvo's trucks outright, it is purchasing the end-to-end transport service. That means it will pay Volvo for every tone of limestone that it is able to deliver using six of the automaker's driverless trucks.

The route the trucks will travel is relatively short, covering just 5 km (3.1 mi), but not exactly straightforward. First the truck beds will be loaded up with limestone in the pit of the mine, before driving 100 m (330 ft) to the entrance of a 3.5 km (2.1 mi) -long tunnel .

The vehicles then have to navigate a second 800-m (2,600 ft) tunnel, before finally deploying its the load into a huge device on the water's edge where the material is crushed, poured onto a boat and shipped away.

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.

"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."

You can see the trucks in action in the video below.

Source: Volvo Trucks

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