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Robotics Transportation

The World's Heaviest Robot 142

Roland Piquepaille writes "This distinction goes to a future autonomous version of the 700-tons Caterpillar mining truck. In this article, Discovery News reports that Caterpillar engineers and computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University have teamed up to develop this autonomous truck. Japan-based Komatsu has already delivered autonomous mining trucks to its customers, but these are smaller than the Caterpillar ones. Both companies are transforming their trucks into 'robots' for three reasons. Improvements in safety, efficiency and productivity will reduce costs and increase availability."
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The World's Heaviest Robot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 09, 2008 @07:25PM (#25698169)
    You'll be hearing from Shampoo's lawyers.
  • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @07:27PM (#25698183) Homepage Journal

    Not that I think there's a huge chance that things will go wrong with, but think of how awesomely cool it would go wrong if it did.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by narcberry ( 1328009 )

      Of course, we're still claiming "The World's Heaviest Robot" even before the project collapses.

    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      This could be worse than both K.A.R.R. and Goliath combined!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Daimanta ( 1140543 )

      "but think of how awesomely cool it would go wrong if it did."

      Yeah, I'm thinking about the truck going on a rampage killing multiple people in the vicinity. Awesome.

      • by negRo_slim ( 636783 ) <> on Sunday November 09, 2008 @08:29PM (#25698639) Homepage

        Yeah, I'm thinking about the truck going on a rampage killing multiple people in the vicinity. Awesome.

        These kind of machines [] are incredibly slow.

        • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @09:27PM (#25699089) Journal

          My old man drives a 797 at a coal mine in Central Queensland - top speed unloaded is 60km/hr.
          I don't define that as "incredibly slow", as it's a damn sight faster than you can run.

          Got a photo around here somewhere of him and his truck- he's 6ft tall, and standing next to the truck, his hard-hat is level with halfway up the hub of the front tyre.

          Top speed loaded is 40km/hr, but that is because the tyres cannot take the higher speeds - they overheat and blow. When a tyre is $35,000 and it blows, that's not good. When it's pumped to it's normal pressure of 130PSI and the truck is parked anywhere near people when it goes off, that's definitely very,very bad.

          Considering the inertia involved, they are pretty much unstoppable by cars, buildings,etc if at speed - they will mow right over the top of your average 4x4 and not even notice. A guy where he works ran over an (empty) Toyota Landcruiser troop carrier one night - swung around in a loop to dump, backed up towards the face, felt a bump "like coming up against a little ridge of dirt" (his words) , put the foot down a little, reverse to face, dump load, drive forward a little, get out of the cab for a smoke, look down in front of the truck.... what's that down near the front wheel? Oh, crap.

          But anyway, I've worked on more autonomous stuff than this.

          Sandvik (and Cat) have systems for underground mines that are pretty much fully autonomous. Sandvik and their Toro loaders can do a full circuit in auto, driving using laser rangefinders to map the walls, update their location on an internal map and basically do all the work except actually dig the bucket of ore. They do traffic control (one loader waits for another at intersections), collision avoidance, the whole shebang.

          So one guy can operate three or four loaders at once, as all he does is take control of a loader at the ore pile, dig a bucket, then set it loose to go and dump that load automatically elsewhere. Meanwhile another loader turns up and sits idle at the ore pile waiting for him to take control. It's Management's wet dream - no need for trained underground operators on $55/hr, get some 17 year old in a control room on the surface at $20/hr running 4 loaders.

          If ore wasn't so tricky to dig out (irregular sizing is the problem), they'd be full auto by now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

          These kind of machines are incredibly [] slow.

          You obviously didn't RTFA.
          So the real question is, did you even read the wikipedia article you linked?

          FTFA: That's nearly two million pounds of metal, fuel and stone powered by a 3,550-horsepower, 24-valve engine moving at up to 42 miles per hour, with software and a robot at the wheel.

          # Drive: 3524B Series, 24-cylinder, four-stroke diesel engine
          # Max speed: 42 mph (67 km/h)
          # Power: 3,550 hp (2,650 kW)

          I don't consider 2 million pounds moving at 42 mph "incredibly slow"

          • by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @11:23PM (#25699745)

            I don't consider 2 million pounds moving at 42 mph "incredibly slow"

            You've obviously never waited in a queue at McDonalds then...

            • McDonalds became substantially less fun when people stopped carrying beepers and started carrying cellphones. Now the only fat people that beep when they reverse are the fleshly spheres mounted on the MART CART at your local supermarket. (The last time I went into a Safeway, I had some woman too fat to turn her head to look behind her try to reverse over me three times in a row. Thank heavens for reverse beepers.)

        • Calculate the kinetic energy of one of those.
          1/2 * 687.5 short tons * (40 mph)^2=99 712 865 joules.

          By comparison it's like getting hit by a normal 2 ton car going ~740 mph (330 m/s).

        • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

          I've been on the ground around many 797's and they may be gigantic, but they can move surprisingly quickly, not just top speed but acceleration and changing direction too.

          They are remarkably agile for their bulk - much like an elephant; most people are surprised to learn that a human can't outrun an elephant despite the pachyderm being unable to jump and weighing up to 10 tons.

      • You're right. TOTALLY awesome!
      • Yeah, I'm thinking about the truck going on a rampage killing multiple people in the vicinity. Awesome.

        Really? Because I was thinking it would probably just sit there with the engine revving its tits off and smoke coming from the gearbox, in a slowly-spreading puddle of hydraulic fluid...

    • by kesuki ( 321456 )

      what happens when the machines gain a conscious and learn that they're contributing to global warming and killing polar bears? think about that one for a moment.

      • They will head north and, uh, run over and kill polar bears. They're robots. They hate us and our cute bears.

    • Think about how cool it would be if we had these working on the moon!
    • Skynet approves of this research.
    • I can't be the first person to have read the story and immediately thought "KILLDOZER!", could I? []

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      Ok, linking to a page with flash is bad. But linking to a flash file itself?!?
      • What's the problem? HTML... a picture... a video... a flash file... they are all just files.
        HTTP request. HTTP response. Data payload. File handling. Finito.
        Or is it because your client is a piece of shit? :P

  • is the entrenched mining unions that have prevented automation for more than 10 years now.
    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      Unions? What unions? If I'm remembering correctly, this is the same mine that ruled its workers with such a totalitarian fist that it inspired Che Guevara to start a communist revolution in Cuba. I don't think unions are an issue in this part of the world.

      • Hmm... so replacing them with robots is actually a good thing. Like freeing them from slavery... :)
        Man, if only I could get five of them to learn to program. I could pay them high wages (for their country), then sell the programs at a hundred times that price, and then pay them really fuckin' high wages, and still make a good profit. Then others would want to learn that too, and soon I would get the peace Nobel price, a really good conscience and a pool full of money.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Easy to do. The union dominated businesses go out of business or become economic basketcases (eg, in the case of a government subsidized business).
      • The union dominated businesses go out of business or become economic basketcases

        I get such a kick out of that argument - capitalist bosses suddenly urging people (union members) not to fully capitalize on their market (labor demand) because it might not be sustainable. Hypocrites.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          This "urging" has the weight of a paycheck behind it. Lot of people can be miners, but not a lot of people can hire and manage them.
  • by ozphx ( 1061292 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @07:35PM (#25698255) Homepage

    I would say the distinction would go to Australia's driverless ore trains when commissioned in 2013.,_Western_Australia.jpg []

    (Yeah I know the pic is of a drivered BHP rather than Rio train... but it does give you an idea of the scale).

    The argument for driverless is that because they take the best part of a day to perform an emergency stop, the family car stalled on the crossing is going to be pulverised regardless of the skill of a human operator. The largest fragment left over from these collisions is usually a few inches in size. Fortunately they don't happen that often.

    • Curiosity: What constitutes the 'robot' in a train? For example, the Detroit People Mover [] is a fully autonomous system. Does the entire train count as a the robot? What about the track in a tram system like the DPM? The train can't operate without it and it IS an integral part of the system.

    • Two engines for that load? Fuck, I'd hate to have to wait for that thing at a crossing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pinckney ( 1098477 )

        2.4km at 75km/h means it will take about 2 minutes to pass a crossing. At half speed, it's still only 4 minutes.

        Source for figures: []

        Only having two engines just means it takes a long time to get up to speed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Typical Rio Tinto Pilbara train

      Loaded weight 30 000 tonnes
      Length 2.4 km
      Top speed 75 km/h

    • If these have autopilot, they win for tonnage by far: []
  • Just get me a robot and 701 tons of concrete weight which will be used for ballast purposes.
    Granted, the robot ain't going to move around much once it is properly ballasted but hey...

    We ARE going for the heaviest not fastest robot around, right?

  • Are those stairs on the radiator? That thing is SO COOL :O!

  • It's not autonomous... it's adding driving aids for a remote controller. Autonomous would imply that it's capable of functioning entirely on its own for (at least) extended periods without requiring operator intervention. The article implies that an operator will still be performing some navigational and control tasks at regular intervals... Like a predator drone. I can't find the article on the recent DARPA robot challenge or I'd link it here, but there's obvious parallels.

    • it's adding driving aids for a remote controller

      The last 2 paragraphs are about "consumer vehicles" and applications, these trucks will not have any operator dedicated to them during a normal shift. Obviously something that weighs 700 tons, and goes 40 MPH, is not intended as your typical consumer vehicle.

  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) * on Sunday November 09, 2008 @07:46PM (#25698335) Journal
    Which Autobot was a dumptruck?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I believe that was a Constructicon, not an Autobot ... (specifically "Long Haul"

    • Another reason why GoBots were fail: Over-simplified naming conventions in combination with never checking into possible negative slang context after translation.

      Their dump truck robot? "Dumper".
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Nickbou ( 1403667 )
      Besides the Constructicons, there is also Wreck-Gar, who is a dumptruck in the new Transformers: Animated series. []
  • I want to see BattleBots with these babies.
  • Is it one of the Transformers? And if Yes , will it be a big good guy?
  • "All of the information would then be run through a computer program that would tell the robotic driver to avoid the obstacle or not..." Interesting, it might go ahead and hit small obstacles... assuming that half the planet isn't considered small in comparison!! There are fracking stairs on the front!!
  • 240 tons? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The payload of a 797B is rated at 380 tons and they can carry an overload of 450 tons without too much of a sweat.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @08:07PM (#25698495)

    An unmanned spacecraft when launched is "fully autonomous" and there are a number that are bigger than 700 metric tons.

    Titan IVB - 943 tons
    Delta IV - up to 733 tons
    Saturn V (there were 3 unmanned launches) - 3000 tons

    • It's all in the marketing. Also, I'm not sure you can count fuel weight as being part of the machine. The single-use nature of rockets also makes them questionable choices for counting here.
    • They aren't autonomous. They're on bang-bang programs that can't adapt to unforseen events.
      • So is the truck. Or people even.

        I'll grant you that the range of "foreseen events" is bigger for people than rockets, and that we don't teach rockets to distrust and re-write existing algorithms (though since almost every launch failure mode ends with a boom that would probably be a waste of time).

        But people are very bad at handling truly unforeseen events. What would you do if the flooring in your house suddenly had 99% less friction -- you'd likely fail (and fall) repeatedly when attempting to propel your

    • Because it's just some quick and dirty "clever" title some journalist on a tight deadline came up with, not some deeply-researched and discussed statement of fact?

      Just a thought.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Delta IV Heavy is up to 807 tons gross weight. Normally I wouldn't be so pedantic but it is a difference of over 10%.
    • On the other hand, there is a huge team of people waiting to take control of this one thing should even the slightest problem occur. So it's not quite the same.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @08:10PM (#25698509)

    he's my brobot.


  • It's not a big truck ... oh wait yes it is!

  • It even looks a bit like the Command And Conquer one. I wonder how much tank damage that baby can take?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 09, 2008 @08:46PM (#25698783)

    I live in Western Australia, where Rio Tinto are developing their autonomous mining equipment. My old man is employed by Rio as a radio techie and as such he has a small part to play in the development of their autonomous trucks. I'm posting anonymously as I don't want any of these remarks getting him in trouble.

    The basic model relies on a single central system coordinating all the trucks as they move about. There have been a lot of kinks to do with radio lines of sight. Mine sites where the principal ore body is ferrous tend not to be very friendly to radio transmission. The actual driving of the trucks is not hugely complicated as the routes are identical for every run and GPS systems make it easy to align a truck with the road. It's not like navigating a desert track or urban landscape.

    Rio are also working on automating their trains. Alongside BHP, Rio has one of the largest fully private rail networks in the world. The two mining giants run the largest freight trains anywhere -- several kilometres long with tens of thousands of tons of iron ore. That may change as the two mining giants are being forced to open their networks to junior mining companies -- it looks easy on paper but railway systems are extremely complicated and finely balanced systems.

    The scale of the mining efforts in the Pilbara boggle the mind. They are utterly vast. Whole mountains made of rust are being excavated, crushed and then shipped to Japan and China. The pace is frenetic. Rio and BHP can't find enough workers and that has caused costs to explode, which is part of why they are turning to automation. But really it's about throughput: an autonomous truck doesn't need lunch breaks, delays for shift change or the like. Every minute counts.

    Rio have been more forward-looking than BHP in this department, so it may not last as BHP are trying to carry out a hostile takeover at the moment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ozphx ( 1061292 )

      To put some numbers on this a small ship loading plant hits an easy 300 megatonne per annum. The cost of downtime on a line is around $500 a second.

  • Megaweapon! (Score:2, Funny)

    by simonbp ( 412489 )

    It's Megaweapon! []

    Simon ;)

  • Does anyone else have a mental image of some guy walking up to a car manufacture bot and starting his tirade of abuse with "Yo mamma's so fat..."

  • MEGA-WEAPON! Now where is that guy from Paper Chase?
  • There are robots that weigh more than 700 tons.

    Integrated factory automation systems get *big*.

  • Great, now when the great robot revolution happens they'll be coming at us from under the ground too.

  • by Leif_Bloomquist ( 311286 ) on Sunday November 09, 2008 @11:13PM (#25699675) Homepage

    This isn't all that new...I submitted a story to Slashdot about a fully autonomous/tele-operated underground mine back in 2001! (Disclaimer, I was one of the engineers on the project.) []

  • []

    A great series of books to read:
    A Bolo is a fictional type of artificially intelligent super-heavy tank. They were first imagined by Keith Laumer, and have since been featured in science fiction novels and short stories by him and others.

  • correction (Score:2, Informative)

    The Cat 797 mining truck actually hauls 400 tons, not 240 as stated in the article. The 240 ton truck is the 793.
  • TerraMax (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @12:56AM (#25700189)

    Although the vehicle mentioned in the article is not a DARPA challenge setup, there was one competitor in the DARPA challenge that would be almost as intimidating if it went rogue:

    - TerraMax []

    Although the vehicle has had it's share of buggy moments, it's has done surprising well, especially considering it's sheer size.

  • Imagine... (Score:3, Funny)

    by CptNerd ( 455084 ) <> on Monday November 10, 2008 @01:06AM (#25700233) Homepage
    Since no one has said it yet, "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these"...
  • connecting the robots to Skynet, oops, I mean the "Internet", should be just around the corner...
  • world domination

    brain and brawn, unmatched

  • Sense of scale.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @03:21AM (#25700899) Journal checking this video [].
    Or this video of a smaller 793, but I sure hope that is not an autonomous kill-bot [].
  • by Dan B. ( 20610 ) <slashdot@brya[ ] ['r.c' in gap]> on Monday November 10, 2008 @05:09AM (#25701353)

    The biggest problem with the driverless Komatsu's on the mine sites are the ruts they cause on the dirt mine 'roads'. When you have 18 tippers weighing 500+ ton rolling on the exact same pair of tyre treads once a minute 24x7, the ruts get gouged pretty deep, pretty quick. A human driver will do his or her best to avoid ruts as he or she drives around every small (and large!) rock pile on the road as it makes for a smoother ride, especially when all you want to do is get it from the bottom of the pit to the top as many times as directed for your 8 hour shift.

  • Megaweapon? []

    We are in serious trouble. Where's the Paper Chase guy when you need 'im?

  • Words I hoped I'd never see in the same article:

    "automate the 700-ton trucks" ...
    "Autonomous vehicle technology is pretty much in its infancy"

    I, for one, welcome our clumsy, myopic, bone-crushing, toddler-trantrum overlords.

    Ah, what do I care, they probably wouldn't fit along British roads anyway. Except, oh noes, what does an American ton mean in real measurements?

    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      A 797 is indeed too big for a standard road.

      If you're anywhere near the midlands you can see some of the 797's smaller brothers right on the A5 in Cannock - Finning/CAT's uk base is there with a yard full of huge trucks. I don't think they keep 797's there, but they do have some of the smaller versions, with the 240 ton bed.

  • Is the one that stepped or rolled over your foot.

  • disabling this Terminator.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin