Autonomous haul trucks in mining are here to stay with companies ramping up the roll out of retrofit fleets around the world, but what does this mean in the wider context of next generation mining equipment?
With many projects from digital twin IoT solutions to predictive maintenance of equipment showing promise in the adoption of emerging technology.
Separating the hype from reality is key in mining, an industry often risk averse to standalone investments and where standards and inter-operability challenges typically need be addressed ahead of technology adoption.
Whilst manufacturers offer integrated systems, mine operators are limited in the combination of machines, autonomous haul trucks (AHS) solutions and centralised monitoring of fleets.
In line with this, the question of what will open data frameworks and connectivity protocols as a trade-off to encouraging competition then mean for next generation AHS solutions?
Especially as each manufacturer develops sophisticated hardware and software solutions how can open source solutions create opportunities for cross-industry solution providers.
The mining industry is indeed on the cusp of immense change, historic strategies focused on maximising production volumes during boom cycles in mining, saw the establishment of process inefficiencies.
This saw numerous mining companies forced to adopt cost-cutting measures as the cycle turned.
As industry confidence recovers and mining companies continue spending following the post-2013 decline.
The question of what happens now arises, in addition to how companies will avoid a re-focus on maximising volume as perceived productivity.
Investing in innovation through technology is key, it indeed costs upfront and takes time, however, this is essential in establishing longevity in productivity gains.
The industry is embracing innovation as demonstrated in growth of other emerging technology segments such as further deployment of autonomous technologies across the industry.
As outlined in their recent report Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Vehicles in Mining 2018-2028, IDTechEx expects the Autonomous Vehicles (Trucks) market to achieve $5 billion dollars by 2028 with leading players Komatsu, Caterpillar and Hitachi continuing to develop and roll out respective autonomous haulage technologies.
Noting, improvements across safety and productivity, and reduced maintenance costs as driving the shift to autonomous technologies across the industry.