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Meet the company that has been building automated self-driving mining vehicles for 20 years

Self-driving automobiles are effectively and actually on the best way to turning into a actuality — and plenty of count on that absolutely autonomous automobiles will likely be on the street inside a matter of some years. Nevertheless it seems self-driving tech is extra helpful than simply for carrying passengers — it can be used to automate issues like mining. 

Actually, Sandvik has been constructing automated loaders and vehicles to be used in actual mines for a hefty 20 years now, and says that in that point it has achieved zero accidents involving folks. That’s fairly spectacular — and proves that automated autos actually are able to do jobs that might in any other case be harmful to people. 

To show how exact its automated vehicles and loaders are, the corporate not too long ago filmed an 11-meter, 38-tonne Sandvik loader navigating by means of a glass labyrinth. In case you’re unaware of how the automated tech works, glass isn’t actually one thing that the loader could be used to navigating by means of — nevertheless it nonetheless managed to make its method by means of the slim aisles with none points. That’s proper earlier than Sandvik CEO Björn Rosengren took over the wheel and promptly steered the loader straight into the glass partitions.

Forward of the curve 

It’s fairly unbelievable that Sandvik’s automated autos have been utilized in real-life mines world wide for thus lengthy — particularly contemplating the truth that shopper carmakers are solely now placing work into self-driving know-how. Not too long ago, the corporate launched its next-generation of automated autos. These autos aren’t all loaders both — in actual fact, from loading to dumping, Sandvik has developed a variety of autos that may automate your entire manufacturing cycle. Contemplating the quantity of variation between completely different mines, that’s a reasonably spectacular feat of know-how.

“It wasn’t a straightforward job,” says Jouni Koppanen, Senior Programs Engineer for Automation at Sandvik. “It’s good to think about the several types of mines, completely different rock sizes and you might want to fill the bucket simply the correct amount. However we did it, and we’re the one ones who’ve an autoload operate.”

In contrast to above-ground automated autos, Sandvik’s are designed to have the ability to go ahead and backward simply as simply and with the identical pace, and the autos can maneuver with a ton of precision, even in tight areas. They’ll additionally stand up to excessive altitudes, warmth, water, and different environments that might do harm to different autos and people. 

Sandvik autos are extremely smart too. Sandvik’s vehicles and loaders be taught their route the primary time they enter the tunnel, because of the set of lasers, maps, and sensors built-in. In addition they function Sandvik’s patented algorithms, coupled with sensors and gyroscopes to verify the autos know precisely the place they’re going, even when GPS isn’t out there.

Higher, safer jobs 

Sandvik is fast to level out that automating mines with Sandvik autos doesn’t essentially imply getting rid of jobs. Actually, what it actually means is that jobs are a complete lot safer.

“A buyer we now have in Australia has automated their whole mine,” Koppanen says. “They nonetheless have the identical variety of folks working as they did earlier than, however now most are above floor in snug workplaces. 

“Our automated loaders and vehicles are in a position to keep an correct, constant and environment friendly degree of working. This reduces accidents whereas rising uptime and productiveness.”

In fact, it’s been an extended street to get right here — however considered one of large technological innovation. Sandvik places its autos by means of a ton of testing to make sure that they’re protected and purposeful. It places its autos to the take a look at at an underground take a look at mine in Tampere, Finland, and it additionally collaborates intently with its prospects to make sure they’re getting precisely what they want.

Seeking to the longer term 

Simply because Sandvik’s autos have come to date, that doesn’t imply the corporate is completed innovating. Actually, it’s engaged on its subsequent era of autos that can automate tomorrow’s mines. Particularly, the corporate is engaged on lowering the business’s reliance on the diesel engine, electrifying its autos, and growing higher battery know-how. In different phrases, Sandvik is completely positioned to proceed main within the autonomous car area, and undertake new applied sciences that make the manufacturing cycle extra environment friendly, and don’t do hurt to the setting. 

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