Self-driving trucks have been a concept in mining operations for many years, because of the well-structured, private roads and dependable routes. Dump trucks basically drive the same route over and over, which makes them an ideal target for autonomous technology.
Diginomica has a good rundown of Caterpillar’s latest work on self-driving mining vehicles in Australia.
“Fortescue Mining Group’s Solomon Hub comprises the Firetail and Kings Valley iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of Australia’s North West which together have a production capacity of over 70 mega tonnes each year. When the project was scoped in 2010, the initial feasibility study called for 75 manned trucks but in July 2011 FMG ordered 12 autonomous 793F vehicles as a pilot. Now with the mines up and running, FMG operates 54 driverless dumpsters which alone results in a $100 million capital saving on twenty trucks.”
There’s also this:
“By replacing the drivers, Westrac and Caterpillar also found they can make further cost savings by eliminating some comfort and safety features on the trucks with weight savings of up to four tonnes per vehicle.”
I’ve had a few people come to me recently asking about how to get up and running in this industry. I’m not that knowledgeable about mining, but the fact that people are asking makes me think this isn’t yet a solved problem.