Executing Our Strategy
Much has been written about the changes promised by autonomous solutions in passenger vehicles, but the autonomous revolution is well on its way in the markets Caterpillar serves, particularly in mining. Our autonomous trucks lead the heavy equipment industry with more than 65.4 million kilometers of autonomous driving, more than double the experience of any automotive manufacturer. With the world’s largest single fleet of autonomous haul trucks and proven solutions for drills, dozers, underground loaders and longwall systems, Caterpillar is helping customers get their work done with greater productivity, safety and consistency than ever.
Knowing that customers are in different stages of their autonomous journeys, Caterpillar develops solutions with a building-block approach. The first phase includes automation and remote-control solutions, in which an operator is still present on a job site and has a line of sight to the machine, even if they are not physically inside it. Cat® MineStar™ Command for Dozing, for example, allows an operator to remotely control a dozer with an over-the-shoulder console or from inside a remote operator station. This solution keeps operators away from dust, noise and vibration, and allows dozing operations to continue in areas that otherwise might be too hazardous.
The second phase is semi-autonomy, which allows operators to manage multiple machines from a remote station located on or off the job site. MineStar Command for Drilling is a semi-autonomous solution that automates the entire drilling cycle for one row, with the operator managing up to three drills from a comfortable operator station. Beyond removing operators from potentially unsafe conditions, this technology helps the customer to increase the consistency of the drilling operation, boost productivity and create job opportunities for people who would otherwise be unable to work as equipment operators, such as people with physical disabilities.
The third phase of maturity is true machine autonomy, which exists in the form of Command for Hauling, Caterpillar’s autonomous offering for trucks. This solution allows mining trucks to operate fully autonomously, allowing customers to substantially increase hauling operation time and to achieve improvements in safety and productivity.
This phase of autonomy is currently demonstrated by our work with multiple mining customers. One customer recently chose Caterpillar to partner on a new site designed to be one of the most technology-enabled and innovative mines in the world. The local Cat® dealer will soon be supplying 793F trucks and blast drills equipped with MineStar autonomy solutions for the mine.
In the near future, we plan to build upon our current solutions to offer autonomous loaders, dozers, graders, water carts and shovels — enabling a fully autonomous site where data feeds into mine planning to enable the customer to improve ore body yield. By helping optimize all aspects of material flow and data processing, full mine autonomy has the potential to facilitate a step-change in mine site efficiency and safety, yielding insights that we may ultimately be able to apply to solutions for other industries.
Beyond the offerings referenced here, Caterpillar provides a wide range of proven autonomy solutions to help our customers today, and more are in development. We also make it possible for our autonomy solutions to work on equipment from other manufacturers, partnering with customers in identifying and developing these as the need arises.