The mining industry is an early adopter of fully autonomous vehicles and machinery, including digging machines, driverless trucks, and inspection robots. This is the first in our three part series on technology and the mining industry.
The barriers to introducing fully automated vehicles on public roads are high. Self-driving vehicles will need to safely navigate near infinite scenarios “in the wild,” and meet high regulatory hurdles before full deployment is possible.
Mining sites offer an almost opposite environment — highly structured and physically remote, with pre-defined, repeatable tasks. The mining industry is using this structural advantage to deploy self-driving vehicles and robotic machinery ahead of the technology’s wider deployment.
Mining companies are highly sensitive to operating costs, and automation is one lever to improve margins. Even small efficiencies gained from automation can result in exponential savings when applied across global mining operations.
International mining companies and machine OEMs, including Caterpillar and Komatsu, are leading the industry’s automation push. Startups have emerged to provide the sensors and platforms that enable newly autonomous vehicle fleets.
We used CB Insights data to unearth startups enabling mining automation and analyze mining company and OEM activity in the space. This is the first in a series of three posts examining technology trends reshaping the mining industry.
oems Deploy Autonomous mining trucks
Moving rocks from one place to another has been an early target for automation. The large, ore-carting vehicles ubiquitous at surface mining sites are quickly being automated.
OEMs are doing much of the heavy lifting to develop the technology. Caterpillar first deployed autonomous mining trucks in 2013. The company’s Cat® Command platform implements autonomous hauling solutions for truck fleets.