Fleet of Steer AS autonomous dump trucks to operate in Norwegian stone quarry as part of new contract
Steer AS has secured their first large contract with a Norwegian partner. On behalf of the entrepreneur Romarheim AS, Steer is developing their technology to use in a fleet of autonomous dump trucks transporting stones in a stone quarry 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," says CEO Pål Ligård of Steer AS.
The project with Romarheim AS is innovative in several ways. Previously, Steer's remote-controlled construction equipment had primarily been utilized in projects where health and safety issues had been the main concern, such as clearing artillery ranges, or where the geographical conditions were challenging and dangerous. With regards to the Romarheim project, the main focus has now changed to utilize the technology for a more efficient and cost-effective autonomous operation.
The contract involves work in a stone quarry by Osterfjord, which is North of Bergen in Norway. They plan to load up 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. From there, the stones will then be transported by boat to both 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. In addition, Romarheim is a very forward-thinking customer who is excited to be part of this innovation project," says co-founder Njål Arne Gjermundshaug of Steer AS. "We are able to develop our product through a clearly defined long term project."
Four machines - one person
The driver of the wheel loader that is loading stones onto the fleet of trucks will also be able to oversee and direct the trucks using an iPad from his seat in the cabin.
"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," says Gjermundshaug. "This is to test the technology so it's meeting the expectations we have for precision, safety, usability and operation time." The project is due to start in spring 2021. Steer is currently performing testing with miniature trucks in Oslo.
For Romarheim, this project is also about realizing an idea they had before the company was even established. "Our focus has always been to be open to new ways of streamlining mass transport by automating some of the processes involved," explains Kåre Romarheim. "With automation, we aim to improve consistency, remove hazardous and dangerous tasks for our employees whilst at the same time reduce the risk for injuries. The expectation is that this will in addition increase the efficiency, reduce the operational and maintenance costs on the equipment."
"This is our first major delivery of autonomous dump trucks in a global market, and we see a large potential," says Ligård. 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. In addition, the company has received 2 million NOK in grants from a public innovation body. Steer can now focus on developing the technology with both the domestic and international market in mind.
The launch of Steer on the international market was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An ongoing project at an oil refinery in USA 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," concludes Solvik Olsen.