technology

As the mining sector strives to secure safety improvements, productivity gains and other benefits offered by a fully autonomous mine, a new report shows that the closed and proprietary systems of the major OEMs are a major barrier.

The paper “Accessing the Fast and Furious Pace of Autonomy to Transform Mining” examines the sector’s opportunity to tap into the broader autonomy ecosystem’s rapid innovation advances to accelerate its efforts towards a fully autonomous mine.

However, the goal of a fully autonomous mine will remain a distant vision if the current closed and proprietary OEM solutions continue to dominate.

Lead authors and resources experts Peter Bryant and Satish Rao find that the industry must shift to a solution that is based on an open and interoperable standard and provides seamless interoperability across OEMs and equipment types.

“Although mining was an early adopter of autonomy, along with defense, today only about 3 percent of all mobile equipment is truly autonomous, most of which is haulage,” says Bryant, managing partner at the growth strategy firm Clareo.

Bryant and Rao highlight the implications of closed solutions for end users which include high technology acquisition, development and maintenance costs, and increased vendor lock-in.

In addition, customers can be locked out from newly improved functionality and better economics.

Open and interoperable systems, on the other hand, offer developers the benefits from advancements achieved in other sectors. These systems will also allow miners to accelerate and future proof their own innovation efforts.

“The desired future world of a fully autonomous mine is achievable only when all mobile equipment can act autonomously and collaboratively. This necessitates, at a minimum, that the respective OEM systems are interoperable and are based upon standards so they can communicate and work together,” the authors write.

To embark on the path to openness and interoperability, the authors conclude the most viable approach, from several explored, for mining is to form an industry consortium to accelerate development of multiple interoperable solutions through standardization.

“An open and interoperable approach will lower barriers to entry and send a signal to the market that mining is a worthwhile investment and offers a path to the wider sector of controlled environments. Initial success will encourage OEMs, startups and companies from the wider autonomy landscape to join in,” says Rao, a partner at Clareo.

The paper also charts the successful paths to interoperability from other sectors, key trends in the overall autonomy landscape and the state of autonomy in mining and other controlled industries.

The findings are based on secondary research and interviews with executives from several parts of the global autonomy ecosystem, including mining companies, automotive OEMs, technology companies and consortia, startups, venture capitalists and private equity investors. Clareo and The World Innovation Network (TWIN) jointly published the research.