Autonomous dump trucks to operate in Norwegian stone quarry

Starting next spring, four autonomous dump trucks will start hauling rock for crushing at a stone quarry on the west coast of Norway.

The order is a milestone for Norwegian autonomous vehicle company Steer AS, whose vehicles had previously been used only for dangerous jobs like clearing artillery ranges.

“We can now utilise our technology with a customer within an industry with a lot of potential. This is very exciting!” said Steer chairman Ketil Solvik Olsen.

The customer is Romarheim, which has been contracted to operate the quarry near Osterfjord, north of Bergen. 

After being loaded with rock, the trucks will follow a set route out of the quarry to dump their loads down a shaft to the crushing plant. From there, the aggregate goes by boat to domestic and international markets.

“As you can understand, these are quite repetitive tasks, and this is a perfectly sized project to test our autonomous solution even further,” said Steer co-founder Njål Arne Gjermundshaug, adding that “Romarheim is a very forward thinking customer who is excited to be part of this innovation project.”

At first, drivers will be in the trucks to make sure the technology works as planned. Then, Steer said, the wheel loader driver loading the trucks will direct them using an iPad from the cabin. 

The project is due to start in spring 2021, and Steer is currently testing miniature trucks in Oslo. 

“This is to test the technology so it’s meeting the expectations we have for precision, safety, usability and operation time,” said Gjermundshaug.

“This is our first major delivery of autonomous dump trucks in a global market, and we see a large potential,” said Steer chief executive Pål Ligård. 

The company said it is now expanding its workforce after Covid-19 delayed a project planned at a US oil refinery. It has received 2 million NOK in grants from the public innovation body, Innovation Norway. 

Image: The trucks will follow a set route out of the quarry to dump their loads down a shaft to the crushing plant (Photograph courtesy of Steer AS)