Volvo mines self-driving underground trucks to rock the industry

By Gerry Miles

There’s the thoughts of self-driving cars from Google in what seems to be the ever-developing world of autonomous cars.

What’s the next big thing?

How about an autonomous underground mine truck?

Volvo’s fully autonomous truck is the first in the world to be tested in operations deep underground in the Kristineberg Mine.

The self-driving truck is part of a development project aimed at improving the transport flow and safety there. The truck will cover a distance of 7 kilometers, reaching 1,320 meters underground in the narrow mine tunnels.

 

“This is the world’s first fully self-driving truck to operate under such tough conditions. It is a true challenge to ensure that everything works meticulously more than 1,300 meters underground,” says Torbjörn Holmström, member of the Volvo Group Executive Board and Volvo Group Chief Technology Officer.

Volvo Group is now releasing a film showing the opportunities that open up with autonomous trucks. The film was recorded in harsh operating conditions in the Kristineberg Mine 100 kilometers from Arvidsjaur in northern Sweden. Torbjörn Holmström, who takes part in the film, wants to show how safe the truck is. He didn’t hesitate to stand in the middle of the mine gallery as the truck approached him.
“No matter what type of vehicle we develop, safety is always our primary concern and this also applies to self-driving vehicles. I was convinced the truck would stop but naturally I felt a knot in my stomach until the truck applied its brakes!”

The entirely self-driving truck that takes the lead role in the film is a specially equipped Volvo FMX. Using various sensors, it continuously monitors its surroundings and avoids both fixed and moving obstacles. At the same time, an on-board transport system gathers data to optimise and coordinate the route and fuel consumption. The truck is part of a development project and is being tested in real-life operation for the very first time.

Skol Volvo!

Volvo demonstrates self-parking car

volvoautonomousBY GERRY MILES

We’ve all likely heard of the autonomous car of the future, but it’s more and more of a reality. With Google’s work on the same, pushing the technology ahead, the possibility of a car piloted without driver interaction becomes more of a reality.

Now, enter the Volvo Car Group, which has developed an ingenious concept for autonomous parking. The concept car, acting like a valet, finds and parks itself in an empty space. Volvo, a king pin of safety, naturally claims the driverless car interacts safely and smoothly with other cars and pedestrians in the process.

“Autonomous Parking is a concept technology that relieves the driver of the time-consuming task of finding a vacant parking space. The driver just drops the vehicle off at the entrance to the car park and picks it up in the same place later,” says Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Advisor Volvo Car Group.

Vehicle 2 Infrastructure technology, in other words transmitters in the road infrastructure, informs the driver when the service is available. The driver activates Autonomous Parking with a mobile phone app and then walks away from the car.

The vehicle uses sensors to localize and navigate to a free parking space. The procedure is reversed when the driver comes back to pick up the car. They make no mention of what happens if the garage is full by the time sensors are detected and engaged.

Interacts with other vehicles and road users

Combining autonomous driving with detection and auto brake for other objects makes it possible for the car to interact safely with other cars and pedestrians in the car park.  “Our approach is based on the principle that autonomously driven cars must be able to move safely in environments with non-autonomous vehicles and unprotected road users,” says Thomas Broberg.

Pioneering autonomous technologies

Volvo Car Group’s aim is to gain leadership in the field of autonomous driving by moving beyond concepts and actually delivering pioneering technologies that will reach the customers. The Autonomous Parking concept is one of several development projects in this field.

Volvo Cars has also been the only participating car manufacturer in the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, which was successfully completed in 2012. The project involved seven European partners. It is the only one of its kind to focus on technology that can be implemented on conventional highways on which platooned traffic operates in a mixed environment with other road users.

The SARTRE platoon included a lead truck followed by four Volvos driven autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h – in some cases with no more than a four-meter gap between the vehicles.

Autonomous steering in the next XC90

“The autonomous parking and platooning technologies are still being developed. However, we will take the first steps towards our leadership aim by introducing the first features with autonomous steering in the all-new Volvo XC90, which will be revealed at the end of 2014,” concludes Thomas Broberg.