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Mining Companies Are Using Autonomous Trucks, Drills and Trains To Boost Efficiency, Reduce Employees (technologyreview.com) 94

schwit1 quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Mining companies are rolling out autonomous trucks, drills, and trains, which will boost efficiency but also reduce the need for human employees. Rio Tinto uses driverless trucks provided by Japan's Komatsu. They find their way around using precision GPS and look out for obstacles using radar and laser sensors. The company's driverless trucks have proven to be roughly 15 percent cheaper to run than vehicles with humans behind the wheel -- a significant saving since haulage is by far a mine's largest operational cost. Trucks that drive themselves can spend more time working because software doesn't need to stop for shift changes or bathroom breaks. They are also more predictable in how they do things like pull up for loading. "All those places where you could lose a few seconds or minutes by not being consistent add up," says Rob Atkinson, who leads productivity efforts at Rio Tinto. They also improve safety. The driverless locomotives, due to be tested extensively next year and fully deployed by 2018, are expected to bring similar benefits. They also anticipate savings on train maintenance, because software can be more predictable and gentle than any human in how it uses brakes and other controls. Diggers and bulldozers could be next to be automated.
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Mining Companies Are Using Autonomous Trucks, Drills and Trains To Boost Efficiency, Reduce Employees

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  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @08:19PM (#53575741)

    Rio Tinto uses driverless trucks provided by Japan's Komatsu.

    Damn foreign trucks stealing our jobs. :-)

  • yup (Score:4, Funny)

    by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @08:20PM (#53575747)

    not using mules and canaries either

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @08:26PM (#53575789)
    We had the technology from about the seventies to have a smart grid of trains to go to multiple locations, but no one wanted to invest in infrastructure like that. If instead of a road system, you had cards guide by wire or a rail hookup, it could be fully automated already without all the tricky edge cases.
    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      So this could be part of the Trump Infrastructure Program? It will put people to work building it until it is built and they have nothing else to do.

  • by orlanz ( 882574 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @08:30PM (#53575805)

    Farm equipment has been automated for quite sometime. Even Artic fishing has a heavy amount of automation. I am surprised that this sector has taken this long to automate things like trains and haulers...

    Now digger automation I would like to see; where you trace out a 3D volume and let it go. It doesn't seem as simple as at first glance. Soil densities vary and you run into obstacles that need a little planning and strategy. Doing it wrong can break some expensive parts or at least wear them out faster. Neat times ahead, hope someone posts some YouTube vids.

    • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @10:17PM (#53576357)

      Automated excavation already exists. Google Automated machine grading. You input a design terrain model into the equipment and put someone in the seat to drive it and the equipment does all the excavating and tells the driver where to go. This has existed for about a decade. The next step is get rid of the no skill driver in the seat and add the radar and cameras so it doesn't run anyone over. Given the advancement in driver-less vehicles it's not going to be long before the only people on construction sites are the foreman and engineer.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        only people on construction sites are the foreman and engineer.

        Too dirty. I'm going to work via telepresence.

  • Good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Very good news.
    Too much death and long-term negative effects on the health of people involved in the mining industry, regardless of technological advancement.
    In addition to that, regardless of various safety regulations and laws and struggles to enforce safety in the mining industry, most of it sooner or later went down the drain or had trivial influence.

    Better take people out of the equation as much as possible in this sector and have them learn and do better stuff to do safer jobs.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      This would require Congress fund re-training and education. Given their abhorrence of Science and spending money on education, those people are screwed, but thanks for playing.

  • Tires last longer. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @08:46PM (#53575891)
    A big motivating reason for using the automated trucks is reduced wear on the tires. Each tire costs a small fortune. Extending their life by 5 to 10% is a big deal.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A big motivating reason for using the automated trucks is reduced wear on the tires. Each tire costs a small fortune. Extending their life by 5 to 10% is a big deal.

      About $50,000 a piece, and each truck needs six. And that's just purchase cost.They're expensive to transport and probably not easy to fit. Plus the cost of having a vehicle out of commission. For a full tire change you'd spend half a million dollars.

      I wonder why they didn't start with the automated trains. Technologically, it must be a hundred times simpler.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @08:50PM (#53575903)

    the world used to need ditch diggers! Now I need to punch the CEO in the face so I can go to lock up to get health coverage. As no plan will take me as that think I have miners lung or something and with no job I can''t pay 10K mo for a plan with pre existing conditions covered.

    • Now I need to punch the CEO in the face so I can go to lock up to get health coverage.

      That's a bad plan. Prisons are in the news all the time for prisoners receiving inadequate health care.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The company's driverless trucks have proven to be roughly 15 percent cheaper to run than vehicles with humans behind the wheel -- a significant saving since haulage is by far a mine's largest operational cost.

    I'm hoping that their new largest operational cost is prevention and mitigation of the pollution and environmental damage they create. Now that these companies can no longer claim to be the source of as many jobs, they should have a harder time externalizing these costs.

    Okay, fat chance.

  • As hard as it is to lose your job, we've come a long way from the days when "consumption" would be diagnosed in 20-year olds who died a couple years later. Even in the USA where we tend to take worker safety more seriously, it's still a chance of death every time a worker goes underground.

    The problem of what to do with displaced workers is not new. It's time we found a real solution. One that doesn't involve violent revolution/communism. Been there, done that. One that doesn't involve bogus "re-trainin

    • by haruchai ( 17472 )

      "We're going to have to care for people without coddling them"
      I expect a lot more people are going to end up in the military & Alaska

    • I suspect it'll look a lot more like socialism than you think. UBI allowing people to play video games 24/7 with no need to work as long as they're willing to cut off other luxuries (and they are), UBI allowing people looking for a little more in life to get by just working 10-20 hours a week instead of 50-60. That's probably the future.
      • UBI allowing people to play video games 24/7

        As a videogame developer, the future is looking bright.

        • Until the first real A.I. comes out, then you too (and me) will be out of a job. A real A.I. would be able to write code WAY faster then a puny human.
        • As a videogame player it is indeed. Of course in America UBI will probably never come.
        • Except on UBI, gamers will only be able to afford free to play games and won't be able to afford to buy any microtransactions.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday December 29, 2016 @09:38PM (#53576117)
    At least we can retrain them to make air conditioners, right?
  • Get the miners out, let the big-ass machines think for themselves, see what happens. Shit happens, software gets tweaked, try again. Lather rinse repeat.

    Good side is fewer miners get trapped in cave-ins. Bad side is those miners are now on unemployment.
    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      What they need is an ultimate computer (perhaps an M-5 unit) to do these dangerous things so that mankind need no longer die in mines. Perhaps Colossus can manage it, ushering in the human era. The City of Domes seems to work pretty well, at least for a few years.

      New technologies are coming at an amazing pace. Perhaps instead of fearing the disruptions these new technologies cause, we can start finding ways to moderate the disruptive effects. After all, I'm pretty sure my bread started out at one of th

  • I know mining is a tough life but reducing your employees sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
    At least they aren't being oxidised.

  • It has been going on few hundred years. We better get use to it.

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