Automatic steering: a winning product with deep roots



Mikko Sampo, Konecranes YardIT Oy, Vantaa, Finland


Brown, muddy fields at dawn. The smell of freshly applied manure fertilizer in a warm spring breeze. The clickety-clack of an antique  turnip harvesting machine in the cool of the evening.

At face value these images do not appear to have very muchin common with a bustling container port; all fired up with 24/7 operations, cut throat competition and an insatiable appetite for productivity – nor do the tranquil farmlands seem like a logical place for the emergence of any cutting edge technology.

But given some innovative spirit, and time – a dozen years to be exact – and the connection is completed.


In 1995 a small start-up business Modulaire Ltd. was one of the first in the world to demonstrate a DGPS controlled autonomous vehicle that was able to follow a pre-programmed path with astonishing accuracy, in all weather conditions and without any susceptibility to human error or fatigue. In 2008 the same business – albeit under a different name – has delivered the 200th fully automatic steering system for use in RTG cranes, enhancing the safety and productivity of container yards and providing RTG operators with a comfortable, reduced workload environment.

“It is actually not as big a leap as one could imagine,” tells Mikko Sampo, co-founder and President of Modulaire, Ltd., later acquired by Savcor Group, and in the summer of 2007, joined Konecranes as a fully owned subsidiary.

“The enabling technology was the high end GPS. Through our intelligence arm in the US we were able to locate the latest advances in this technology and quickly build application testing platforms. To my knowledge, in 1995 we were the first development group anywhere to use a real-time kinematic, dual frequency DGPS receiver in an autonomous vehicle application, a track driven light duty multi-purpose tractor,” explains Mikko.

“With the cost of the receiver running over 100,000 Euros – it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that either we had to look for other, fairly high value applications, or the cost had to come down by the order of magnitude…

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