Komatsu expects to have over 240 autonomous trucks operating commercially in the world by March 2020, going from its 3 current customers, including Gabriela Mistral mine site in Chile, to more than 6.
That is what Darko Louit, Komatsu Cummins Group’s CEO, stated during his participation in the “New Ground-Breaking Technologies for Mining” seminar, held by Voces Mineras trade union and Chile Engineers Association.
The CEO emphasized that the Company has operated with these machines for 12 years, with 2,5 billion tons hauled to date, incident-free and optimum operational continuity. “From our current experience, we are talking about extremely safe machines,” he said.
When explaining the scope of this breakthrough, Louit declared that “autonomy does not only mean autonomous trucks. There are automation degrees to autonomy, which we have considered since the beginning of Komatsu’s design, and it involves going from zero autonomy to full autonomy. That means a fully autonomous operation. This is why, halfway through the automation process, we find manual mining operations with different assistance degrees.”
As an example, the executive informed that Komatsu Cummins is currently working on autonomous shovels, since mineral loading operations must be part of the automation process.
“Currently, we are working on an autonomous transport concept. The next step is developing an autonomous mine site, with no personnel in the operations,” added the CEO.
Regarding this transition, the CEO commented that going from autonomous transport to autonomous mine sites is “a huge step. After that, we could start thinking about going all-autonomous, with machines managed by Artificial Intelligence in order to fulfill mining plans.”
In this context, he explained that, given the progress of this technology, the autonomous mine concept could be implemented in no more than 10 years, provided that an agreement with mining operators is reached.
On the benefits that this technology offers, the executive stated that, besides optimization in productivity and costs, “the main factor that drives us to work on this breakthrough is providing better safety to people, distancing workers from hazards.”
Concerning the changes this new production method entails, Louit emphasized that they basically consist of a cultural transformation, because, although it deals with the introduction of new machines, “it all must be done with support from the people and by training more specialized workers.”