– The prototype showed last week at the Exploration Forum in Eskilstuna could be the first driverless hauler of this kind. It can be used in mines or quarries where it is unsafe for people to work, says Anders Pettersson, who supervised the students in the final project course at the Master Programme in Mechanical Engineering.
A vehicle that rolls on its own
The students at Luleå University of Technology was commissioned to together with Volvo CE develop an electric and driverless concept to move materials more efficiently. Joseph Elhag was involved in the project and is now working at Volvo Cars. Initially they did interviews and surveys with companies, drivers and mechanics to find out the needs of the industry.
– After the preparatory work we wrote our requirements specification and begun generating the concept. How do we control the machine? How should the suspension work? Based on detailed drawings, Volvo CE has built the vehicle, he says.
The vehicle without a cab and driver rolls on its own and moves and dumps material in a quarry. Students developed the mechanics and Volvo CE the control systems and the other systems.
– In the mine there are already radio controlled vehicles, but the uniqueness of the hauler is that it drives itself from the basis of a program and can be paired with multiple machines to a train, says Josef Elhag.
Increased security and lower emissions
In addition to safety there are currently a high demand for products that are fuel efficient. Electrified and autonomous vehicles of this type can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 100 percent in a workplace. By driving on green electricity instead of diesel. The industry now sees opportunities to develop new solutions that can perform heavy work with limited or no help from humans.
– The machine concept provides lower total cost of operation thanks to lower operator and energy costs. The operator can monitor several machines at the same time, much like a shepherd, says Joakim Unnebäck who works at Volvo CE and has coached the students in the project.
Whether exactly this product actually reach the market remains to be seen, and it is the customers who decide the next step in the process. The driverless hauler is still at an experimental level, but the next generation is not far away from the market. Volvo CE emphasizes the importance of cooperation with academia to develop tomorrow's solutions.
– This type of cooperation between Volvo CE, its customers, governments and academia allows us to invest in new technologies and explore solutions that are relevant for our customers and address future challenges, says Erik Uhlin, advanced engineering technical project leader at Volvo CE.
For the university the interaction leads to that students get a connection directly into the labor market.
– Doing this type of project is a good preparation start working. The students construct a real product during the study period and this expertise gives a good start to the career, says Anders Pettersson at Luleå University of Technology.