Komatsu and Toyota Motor Corporation have announced a joint project to develop an autonomous light vehicle (ALV) for the mining industry.
The ALV aims to improve safety and productivity in mines by running autonomous haul trucks and automated ALVs controlled by Komatsu’s Autonomous Haulage System (AHS).
Both companies are currently testing a concept ALV at their proving grounds, and plan to have a proof of concept at a customer site by early 2024.
“Minerals and energy resources are essential in our lives and industries. Autonomy offers the opportunity to remove people from harm’s way and enhance safety,” explained a joint news release by Toyota and Komatsu.
“It can allow our mining customers the ability to continue the hard work of providing critical minerals despite the ongoing challenge of labour shortages in the mining industry.”
Since the launch of the world’s first commercial application of an AHS in 2008, Komatsu has proven the system’s performance in various mine environments and has earned a reputation for safety and productivity. More than 650 AHS-enabled trucks have been deployed to 22 sites in five countries and have moved a combined 6.2 billion tonnes of material.
Currently, when AHS-enabled haul trucks and manual light vehicles used for maintenance or transport are running on haul roads at the same time, autonomous haul trucks may decrease their speed or stop when passing light vehicles to avoid possible collisions caused by human error. On the other hand, customer demand for improved productivity in mine operations when it comes to autonomous haul truck operating efficiency remains an issue.
Komatsu and Toyota ALV development
Considering those circumstances and to quickly solve those issues, the Komatsu and Toyota partnership aims to accelerate autonomy in mines. Komatsu will develop a new management program for ALVs on its AHS supervisory system, and Toyota will develop ALVs running automatically under AHS control.
By operating Komatsu’s autonomous haul trucks and Toyota’s ALVs in mine sites utilizing a common AHS, the following safety and productivity improvements will be realized across the mining operation:
- Safe operation of ALVs on haul roads
- Prevent accidental contact caused by drivers
- Minimize speed reductions or brief stops of autonomous haul trucks
As well, Toyota’s ALV autonomous operation accelerates further improvements and adds functions that contribute to safety and productivity. For example, the ALV enables autonomous transfer of parts for other mining equipment working in the field. As well, the vehicle will allow autonomous transfer of equipment operators for other machines such as loading equipment or dozers.
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Komatsu mining customers were given a sneak peek of the ALV at the recent Automation Global User Forum at the company’s Arizona Proving Grounds in Tucson, Arizona.
With an emphasis on Komatsu’s interoperability strategy, the event highlighted the company’s equipment automation and system technology roadmaps. As well, customers presented case studies illustrating the high value autonomous haulage has delivered to their mining operations and their potential paths to an automated mine site.
The event was attended by customers representing more than 20 mine sites around the world, including mines focused on the production of copper, iron ore, metallurgical coal and oil sands.
“Interoperability is the cornerstone of our mining automation strategy,” said Martin Cavassa, Manager of Automation Business Development for Komatsu.
“This forum was an excellent opportunity to showcase our developments in automation as well as what we envision for the future of mining.”
Komatsu’s concept for the automated mine of the future includes a range of options from teleoperation and task-level automation to a fully autonomous mine, including automation of loading, hauling, drilling, dozing, grading and watering.