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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

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.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, award winning Futurist working between the dates of 2020 and 2070, is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil.” Regularly featured in the global press, including BBC, CNBC, Discovery and RT, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew sits on several boards and his recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, building the first generation of biological computers and re-envisioning global education with the G20, and helping the world’s largest manufacturers ideate the next 20 years of intelligent devices and machines. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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