Caterpillar mining trucks working within MineStar™ Command for hauling recently reached a milestone of 1 billion tonnes hauled. Caterpillar deployed the first six commercial autonomous trucks in 2013, and the fleet has now grown to more than 150 with six different mining companies operating Command for hauling in iron ore (Fortescue Metals, BHP, Vale, Rio Tinto), copper (Teck’s Highland Valley Copper) and oil sands (Imperial Oil Kearl).
“Command for hauling has proven its value to mining customers,” said Sean McGinnis, product manager, Caterpillar Mining Technology. “That value is reflected in the rate at which the Cat autonomous fleet achieved this milestone. The fleet is growing quickly and production continues to climb as mining companies benefit from greater truck productivity, increased truck utilisation, consistent truck operation and reduced costs.
“In the process of hauling one billion tonnes, the autonomous trucks traveled nearly 35 million kilometres,” McGinnis said. “No lost time injuries have been attributed to Cat autonomous haulage. Command for hauling has demonstrated how it enhances safety by eliminating truck operating errors and by reducing the number of people working in the active mining area.”
Initial development of Cat autonomous mining trucks began more than 20 years ago. “In 1996 Caterpillar debuted the first autonomous mining truck at MINExpo,” said Michael Murphy, chief engineer of Cat MineStar. “Caterpillar was an early adopter of GPS guidance technology, and we had success with it in a number of applications. At that time, Caterpillar focused on developing the building blocks for automation. These technologies are now the core of MineStar capabilities, which assist onboard operators and enable teleremote, semi-autonomous and autonomous machine operation.”
Currently, Cat autonomous trucks are operating in Australia, South America and North America. A fleet of 70 Cat autonomous trucks in Australia has achieved productivity increases of 30% at significantly reduced costs. Driven by additional process improvements, greater productivity gains are possible.
The current Cat autonomous truck fleet is primarily composed of Cat 793F trucks, which carry 227 t of payload. But the range of truck models is expanding. Caterpillar has developed and is deploying autonomous Cat 797F (363 t payload) and Cat 789D (181 t payload) trucks. To serve customers with mixed fleets, Caterpillar has developed a retrofit kit for another brand of trucks. The retrofit equips the trucks to work autonomously within Command for hauling.