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AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES


Jonathan Newell discovers how driverless off-road heavy haulage mining vehicles are providing testing opportunities for autonomous freight transport.


Mining transport puts autonomy to the test


❱ ❱ A Norwegian limestone mine is making use of adapted Volvo FH05 heavy goods vehicles for autonomous transport


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wedish truck manufacturers, Volvo and Scania have both produced heavy haulage vehicles for the mining industry with fully autonomous capabilities. Since 2016, driverless vehicles have been tested in Scandinavian mines and now a salt mine operation


in Australia has become the latest venue in the excavation industry to trial autonomy.


SCANDINAVIAN MINES Volvo already has considerable experience in providing vehicles for both deep mines and open pit mining operations. It placed specially adapted FMX trucks into Boliden’s Kristineberg Mine near Arvidsjaur in the northern reaches of Sweden as far back as 2016. Since then, its autonomous on-board control system and sensors for detecting both static and moving obstacles has been under test under punishing conditions along 7km of narrow tunnels extending over 1km deep beneath the ground. More recently, the end of 2018 saw the signing of an agreement between Volvo Trucks and Brønnøy Kalk in Norway to provide six autonomous Volvo FH trucks for transporting limestone from an open pit mine to a nearby port. Testing had already taken place throughout 2018 on a 5km


stretch through tunnels between the mine to the crusher and it is expected to become fully operational by the end of 2019. Managed by the operator of a wheel loader, the vehicles guide themselves in both tunnels and in an outdoor environment. Initially, a safety driver will be on board the vehicle with full driverless autonomy expected by the end of the year. According to Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks, global transport needs generally are continuously changing at a very high pace and the mining industry specifically is demanding new and advanced systems to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive environment.


6 /// Automotive Test & Validation Vol 2 No. 1


❱ ❱ Australian mine provides proving ground opportunities for future autonomous freight haulage


RIO TINTO MINE IN AUSTRALIA Scania is developing commercial vehicle autonomy at a rapid pace and has been involved in platooning projects within Europe as well as off-road autonomy development for the mining industry. The Scandinavian truck maker is currently testing a new


generation autonomous transport system at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt mine in Western Australia. The first phase of the trial started in August 2018 and


involves a Scania XT 8x4 autonomous tipper truck. During this initial stage, a safety driver rides in the vehicle to observe the truck’s performance and, if necessary, intervenes. In subsequent phases, additional autonomous Scania trucks will be added to develop vehicle-vehicle awareness and intelligent fleet supervisory controls. Rio Tinto head of Productivity & Technical Support, Rob Atkinson said, “We’re pleased to be trialling this technology in trucks that are smaller than our traditional haul trucks. This has the potential to give us more flexibility in the way we operate in a number of areas across Rio Tinto. We have seen automation create safer and more efficient operations in our business and this is a next step in evaluating options for delivering further improvements through the use of technology.” According to Björn Winblad, Head of Scania Mining, the high vehicle utilisation rates of mining companies are ideal for testing new autonomous technology. He believes that the industry can reap the safety and productivity benefits of automation. Mining is just one step in the process of developing autonomous control and provides rich opportunities as a proving ground. “The experience gained at Rio Tinto’s Dampier mine will be


instrumental in helping Scania to develop fully autonomous vehicles for other transport applications,” concludes Winblad.


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