Komatsu unveils its 250 ton autonomous dump truck for strip mines

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With no human driver this huge dump truck has no cab and never turns around

Autonomous vehicle technology is still in its infancy, which means that most self-driving vehicles still have a way for humans to take over when needed. But as Komatsu demonstrates with a design for a new autonomous dump truck, in some cases there are real advantages to eliminating humans altogether.

In a massive strip mine, where there are no people walking around and very few hazards, so the need for a backup driver in a vehicle that’s continually retracing the same route all day long is unnecessary. Back in 2008, Komatsu actually started testing self-driving mining vehicles, but they were conventional trucks upgraded with autonomous capabilities, which meant they still had a cab for a driver to ride along.

 

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The latest version of its Autonomous Haulage System dump truck, however, was designed from the ground up to be completely autonomous. As you can see, there’s no longer a driver’s cab.

In fact, aside from the direction the dumping bed raises, the self-driving truck doesn’t really have a front or back. It can drive in either direction equally well thanks to four-wheel steering, which in turn means a strip mine doesn’t need to allocate space for one of the massive vehicles to turn around after each trip so a driver can see where they’re going. It can simply shuttle back and forth, reversing direction as needed.

 

Komatsu’s promotional video
 

The other advantage to being able to operate in either direction is that Komatsu was able to design the new autonomous truck so that weight was evenly distributed between all four wheels, allowing it to maximize its payload – over 250 tons – which in turn means less trips back and forth to be emptied.

There’s no word on when Komatsu plans to deliver the newest member of its Autonomous Haulage System, but if it means improved efficiency and vehicles that never have to stop so drivers can use the washroom or sleep, it’s safe to assume mining companies will be lining up to add these to their fleets.

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Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Among other things Matthew keeps busy helping the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers ideate the next five generations of smartphones, and what comes beyond, the world’s largest chip makers envision the next twenty years of intelligent machines, and is helping Europe’s largest energy companies re-invent energy generation, transmission and retail.

Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who has been featured on the BBC, Discovery and other outlets. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them envision the future and helps them transform their industries, products and go to market strategies, and shows them how the combination of new, democratised, powerful emerging technologies are helping accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change.

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