Space & Innovation

Driverless Truck Prowls Underground Mine

Volvo rolls out world's first autonomous truck for underground mining facilities.

<p>Volvo</p>

Volvo has reinvented the mine cart. From the ground up, you might say.

The Swedish automotive company has announced deployment of the world's first autonomous truck designed to be used in underground mining operations. If Volvo has its way, what was once the domain of rickety mine cars and railway tracks will henceforth be handled by driverless trucks.

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Volvo's first autonomous mining truck is already in use at the Kristineberg Mine, around 100 kilometers from the town of Arvidsjaur in northern Sweden. The truck is being used to haul rocks and other materials over a set course distance of about seven kilometers, at a depth of around 1,320 meters. Volvo engineers say that the heavy-duty truck is particularly useful in that it can traverse the difficult terrain and harsh operating conditions that exist far underground.

Volvo

The autonomous truck is actually a modified Volvo FMX, specially equipped with laser sensors that constantly monitor its surroundings to avoid both fixed and moving objects. The onboard transport system, meanwhile, continuously gathers data to optimize routes and monitor fuel consumption.

The design team say the driverless system that can be easily adapted to places other than underground mines.

"We are building a technology platform rather than a specific functionality solution," says group project leader Johan Tofeldt.

The Volvo team has filmed a couple of videos of the truck in action, and they're worth checking out. To demonstrate the system's safety features, Volvo's chief technology officer Torbjörn Holmström actually stands in front of an approaching truck as it bears down on him in the middle of a darkened mine gallery 1,300 meters underground.

"I was convinced the truck would stop but naturally I felt a knot in my stomach until the truck applied its brakes," Holmström says.

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Pretty gutsy for a chief technology officer. For more information on the project, and Volvo's other autonomous vehicle initiatives, click on over to the company's Automation hub. Or check out our recent report on Volvo's collaboration with Uber that's bringing driverless ride-share cars to Pittsburgh.

June 23, 2011 --

With "Cars 2" rolling into theaters, Lightning McQueen, the red racer at the center of the film, may have the most famous face -- or rather fender -- at the movies this weekend. "Cars 2" may be a movie all about cars, but with its release, we thought we'd take this opportunity to look famous cars in a broader range of movies. In this slideshow, explore some of the top movie star cars in American cinematic history. And once you're done, tell us some of your own in the comments section below.

Ghostbusters' Ectomobile (or Ecto-1)

This reconstructed 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor limousine/ambulance combination may not seem like the ideal means of conveyance for a ghost-trapping operation. But with seating for four and storage room for as many proton packs, what's not to love about the Ectomobile? Featured in the original 1984 film "Ghostbusters," the Ecto-1 was later joined by a fleet of other Ghostbusters cars, helicopters and even an airplane as the franchise expanded.

The General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazzard"

If trouble were brewing in Hazzard County, this orange, two-door 1969 Dodge Charger was likely at the center of it. Although series and subsequent film may have centered on the Duke family and their run-ins with county commissioner Boss Hogg, the real star of the show was the General Lee.  Constantly involved in high-speed chases and gravity-defying jumps, the car may have always looked great on screen, but the same wasn't necessarily true behind the scenes. During production of the television series, producers went through more than 250 General Lees throughout the life of the series. Around 24 were used during the filming of the 2005 feature film. 

Gran Torino from "Starsky and Hutch"

This bright red 1976 Ford Gran Torino may not be the most discreet for two crime-fighting detectives. But for four seasons on television in the 1970s (and a movie remake in 2004), this car helped officers David Michael Starsky and Kenneth "Hutch" Hutchinson crack down on criminals in style on the  streets of Bay City, Calif. Affectionately known as the "Striped Tomato," coined by Paul Michael Glaser, who played Starsky in the television series and reportedly hated the look of the car, the Gran Torino became not only recognizable as the mascot of the show, but also broadly popular with fans of the series.

Herbie

The car may be small, gray and ugly. The engine isn't quite as muscular as any of the other cars that appear on this list. And despite six movies, it still can't convince us that a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle could ever win a race even if it does have spunk. Still though, everyone's heard of Herbie. Famous doesn't always mean loved -- or even liked really.

Transformers' Bumblebee

This yellow 2009 Camaro may look like any other bee-themed muscle car, but in fact it's hiding a secret. This car is actually a sentient robot, known as an Autobot, from the planet Cybertron. (Or at least that's what the dealer might tell you to knock up the price.) Bumblebee, one of the most recognizable robots from the recent Transformers film trilogy, originally donned the look of a '76 Camaro before trading in for an updated model.

Kitt from "Knight Rider"

Although never technically a movie star (aside from a made-for-TV film in 2008), Knight Rider's KITT managed to talk its way onto this list. KITT, short for Knight Industries Two Thousand in the original 1980s television series, was more than a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am; it was a robotic automobile equipped with body armor, advanced scanners, a flame thrower, oil jets, a tear-gas launcher, an English accent and so much more. KITT was even equipped with that rarest of fictional 1980s technology: a phone.

James Bond's Aston

Just about any car from super spy James Bond could have made it onto this list: the Ford Mustang Mach-1 from "Diamonds Are Forever;" the Bentley Mark IV in "From Russia With Love;" or even the submersible Lotus Esprit S1 from "The Spy Who Loved Me." But one car stands above all the others: the Aston Martin DB5 originally featured in "Goldfinger." Sean Connery, the original James Bond, poses alongside the car during filming of the movie in this photo. If the luxury and the design of this 1960s-era Aston isn't enough to win you over, how about the machine guns, the bulletproof glass or the ejector seat in case you're about to roll off of a cliff (all non-standard safety features)?

1968 Ford Mustang GT

Take American film icon Steve McQueen, add this Mustang, and what you end up with is a recipe for one of the greatest car movies in cinematic history. The movie also made the Mustang an American motoring institution.  During the famous chase sequence between the Mustang and a 1968 Dodge Charger, only two Mustangs were used. Only one survived and is still around today, though it's whereabouts are generally unknown. (A reproduction of the vehicle appears in this photo.)

The DeLorean from "Back to the Future"

If you're going to go through the trouble of going back in time, you might as well do it in style. When Doc Brown turned an ordinary DeLorean DMC-12 into a nuclear-powered time machine, he made history by turning this car into an icon. Although only about 9,000 versions of this model were ever produced, the modern-day DeLorean Motor Company still manufactures reproductions of this car, gull-wing doors and all. 

The Batmobile

There have been many versions of the Batmobile over the decades. From the original Batmobile based on the Lincoln Futura featured in the original Batman television series to the latest more muscular variant -- a cross between a supercar and a tank known as "The Tumbler" -- seen in "Batman Begins" and the "Dark Knight," all Batmobiles have had one thing in common: They are awesome. After all, who wouldn't want a car with a jet engine, rocket launchers, a grappling hook and a built-in motorcycle? It sure beats walking.

Those were our top 10 favorite movie star cars but there were a lot that didn't make it on the list. Which cars would you rank at the top? The Mach 5 from "Speed Racer"? The Alfa Romeo from "The Graduate"? The Trans Am from "Smokey and the Bandit"? The Mini Coopers from "The Italian Job"? Garth's Mirth Mobile from "Wayne's World"? Let us know in the comments section!