Many industrial applications for autonomous vehicles are in well-controlled environments that do not need the extensive mapping and understanding of varying traffic rules that impact autonomous road vehicles. Part 1 of this blog addressed the different levels of autonomous driving as defined by SAE for road vehicles and introduced the topic of autonomous farming. Part 2 provided additional information about autonomous farming applications as well as lift trucks. This third blog will address autonomous mining vehicles and autonomous trucking.
Autonomous Mining Vehicles
For the special requirements of mining, Caterpillar’s Cat® Command allows a mining vehicle to respond to calls to shovel, move into position, haul to dump points and even report for maintenance without an operator on board. This makes it a true SAE Level 5 autonomous vehicle. In fact, the company is developing autonomous mining truck technology for an expanded range of models, including other brands.
In addition to the more controlled environments already discussed for autonomous vehicles, autonomous on-road trucking presents some near-term opportunities as the required technologies continue to be refined.
In a December 2018 article on McKinsey & Company’s website, the author noted that fully autonomous medium- and heavy-duty trucks are already making beer deliveries in some areas. The vehicles are retrofitted with lidar, sensors and other technologies that allow them to operate without human intervention.
According to the article, sixty-five percent of the nation’s consumable goods are currently trucked to market. That amount is expected to increase from even greater e-commerce transactions. With projected operating costs reduced by about 45 percent when full autonomy occurs, efforts and projects to realize these savings will definitely increase. Four distinct phases are expected in the implementation of autonomous trucks.