Steer AS has secured its first large scale autonomous truck contract at a quarry in Norway.
Working with Romarheim AS, Steer is developing their technology to use in a fleet of autonomous dump trucks transporting stones on the west coast of Norway.
“This is a milestone for Steer. With this contract, we are taking a giant step from our first contract in 2009, which involved clearing a large artillery range in the Norwegian mountains,” said Steer AS CEO Pål Ligård.
The project with Romarheim AS is innovative on several levels. Previously, Steer’s remote-controlled construction equipment had primarily been utilized in projects where health and safety issues has been the main concern, such as clearing artillery ranges, or where the geographical conditions were challenging and dangerous.
For the Romarheim project, the main focus has changed to utilize the technology for a more efficient and cost-effective autonomous operation.
“We can now utilize our technology with a customer within an industry with a lot of potential. This is very exciting,” said Steer chairman Ketil Solvik Olsen.
The plan is to load autonomous trucks with stones, and these trucks will then follow a set route out of the quarry and dump the stones into a shaft leading down to a crushing plant.
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“As you can understand, these are quite repetitive tasks, and this is a perfectly sized project to test our autonomous solution even further. In addition, Romarheim is a very forward-thinking customer who is excited to be part of this innovation project,” said Steer co-founder Njål Arne Gjermundshaug.
“We are able to develop our product through a clearly defined long term project.”
The plan is for the wheel loader operator, tasked with loading the fleet of trucks, to also be able to oversee and direct the trucks using an iPad from his seat in the cab.
“At the start of the project, we will place drivers in the remote-controlled trucks as a precaution to ensure that the technology is working correctly and meeting expectations,” Gjermundshaug said.
The project is expected to start this spring. Steer is currently performing testing with 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,” Gjermundshaug said.
Due to a significant increase in the interest in Steer’s technology, they are now in the process of expanding the workforce and the organization.
“This is our first major delivery of autonomous dump trucks in a global market, and we see a large potential,” Ligård said.
In addition, the company have received NOK$2 million in grants from Innovation Norway. Now, Steer can focus on developing the technology for both the domestic and international market in mind.
“We believe the market is substantial, especially in North-America and Australia,” Olsen said.
The launch of Steer on the international market was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An ongoing project at an oil refinery in United States had to be postponed, but despite the pandemic, Steer has experienced an increase of interest from potential new international customers.
“This is not the type of technology that you purchase online with a home delivery two days later. Our solutions need to be properly integrated with the customer’s existing technology; safety is the highest priority. Our experts would normally travel to the customer to oversee the integration. With the travel limitations, we have experienced in 2020, we have not been able to do this as initially planned.
At the same time, by focusing on domestic projects, we have had a great opportunity to establish a partnership with Romarheim. They have so far been a dream partner for us as they are a serious, down to earth and trustworthy partner. This may be beneficial for both of us,” Olsen said.