Sugarcane mill in Paraná is the first to work with the vehicles, which help increasing the productivity of crops
After little more than one year of tests, Volvo began selling their VM automated truck, the first to be used in a real operation in Brazil. The first lot of seven trucks was sold to Maringá’s Usaçucar group, owners of Santa Teresinha mill, where the truck’s prototype had been tested since May 2017.
Developed by Volvo’s engineering team in Curitiba, the technology is at level 2 of automation, in which the system drives the truck along a predetermined route. Programmed to recognize the curves of the terrain level through a geolocation system, which activates the steering wheel, the vehicle is capable of virtually “visualizing” the harvest lines and following them, with a precision of 2.5 cm.
The system is made up of two GPS high precision antennas (GNSS/RTK), two high sensitivity gyroscopes and a display located inside the truck’s cabin, which works as a man-machine interface.
The driver remains at all times inside the cabin, and is responsible for driving the truck to the beginning of its trajectory and taking it to the discharge point after the harvest. “It is like in an airplane, where the pilot does the landings and takeoffs, and, even with the autopilot turned on, he remains watching the whole process”, explains Volvo’s truck sector commercial director, Bernardo Fedalto. For now, these vehicles will only circulate in enclosed areas, and will not be able to use the automated mode in roads.
Driver remains inside the truck’s cabin along the way
When it was released, in 2017, Volvo predicted that sales would begin after three years, and a prototype began to be tested at Santa Teresinha mill. Its performances were so satisfactory that the company implemented seven new truck with the technology, which were then taken to the field to be operated in the same mill. “When you make one lot and everything works smoothly, it is time to begin to sell it”, the director said.
The business model is innovative for the sector: the trucks were sold to Usaçucar, but the technology is commercialized as a service provision, with periodical payments. Fedalto quotes the explanation given by Volvo Latin American president Wilson Lirman, which established a parallel with cable TV and internet, in which there is a device needed for them to work, but you do not pay for it, but for the service it provides.
After selling the truck, Volvo sends a team of engineers to get acquainted with the territory where the vehicle will be driven, and to get to know the way the mill works in order to set up its technology. “Technologies are always being updated, and we are responsible for keeping the truck always up-to-date”, Fedalto explained.
This new model, however, may not be definitive, according to the director. “It is an extremely new business, and each client has a different evaluation, so the model itself is also being tested”, the director said.
The company already has other potential customers interested in VM Autonomous, which is currently only being used in sugar cane crops, where they are already in the phase of analyzing the terrain where the trucks will operate.
The technology is already being tested in other segments, such is mining, in an underground mine in Sweden, and in garbage collection, in England. The company already have prototypes of automated buses and construction equipment such as loaders and articulated trucks.
Increase in productivity
The improvement in the truck’s precision when it comes to making turns increases considerably the productivity in sugar cane harvests, because it avoids driving over the seedlings. According to Usaçucar’s financial and supply director, Paulo Meneguetti, one in every five potential sugar cane crops are lost by driving over seedlings during the harvesting process. With the automated technology, these losses will be eliminated.
During the sugar cane harvesting period, which is short, the work is done 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The losses occurred mainly at night, due to short visibility. “It is a tiresome work, and technology also helps reducing the drivers’ fatigue and stress, as well as providing them with more security”, Fedalto concludes.
READ IT IN PORTUGUESE:
Usina de cana-de-açúcar no Paraná é a primeira a trabalhar com os veículos, que ajudam a aumentar a produtividade da colheita”