Caterpillar autonomous trucks achieve over 5 billion tons moved
By Becky Schultz22 September 2022
Caterpillar haul trucks equipped with Cat MineStar Command for hauling have autonomously moved more than 5 billion tons of material and are on pace to eclipse previous record totals for materials hauled in a calendar year. They are projected to achieve more than 1.57 billion total tons moved in 2022.
Command for hauling enables total autonomous operation of mining trucks, interaction with other equipment and integration with customer mining processes and systems, all managed by the Cat MineStar System. The system utilizes a suite of technologies, wireless communications and global positioning to automate Cat mining trucks. Cat 789D, 793D, 793F, 797F, and electric drive 794 AC and 798 AC mining trucks – which span the 210- to 410-ton class sizes – are capable of fully autonomous operation, with retrofit kits available to expand the service to existing Cat mining trucks.
Over the last nine years, trucks equipped with Command for hauling have journeyed nearly the average distance between the Earth and Mars with zero loss-time injuries, the company reported. More than 550 mining trucks with the technology are currently operating across three continents, with 13 customers at 23 different locations implementing full site autonomous haulage solutions.
“In 2013, we placed our first fleets of autonomous trucks in Western Australia at FMG Solomon and BHP Jimblebar. Since that time, trucks using Command for hauling have safely traveled nearly 200 million km (124.3 million miles), more than twice the experience in autonomous operations of any automobile manufacturer,” said Denise Johnson, group president, Caterpillar Resource Industries. “Caterpillar has grown the number of autonomous trucks in operation by 40% in the past two years. We believe that automation is one of many keys to implement technology that unlocks the value miners need when it comes to the energy transition toward more sustainable operations.”
Since 2019, Caterpillar has won eight of nine greenfield autonomy sites, including a recent Technology System Supply Agreement with ioneer Ltd., a lithium-boron supplier. The definitive agreement builds upon a Memorandum of Understanding signed last year and solidifies the early introduction of Command for hauling at ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmerelda County, Nevada.
Operations at the ioneer site are scheduled to start in 2024 using a fleet of Cat 785 next-generation mining trucks featuring Command for hauling, with the fleet scheduled to expand significantly in 2028. All support equipment will feature the latest MineStar technology utilizing high-precision GPS and real-time analytics to maximize efficiency and accuracy in material loading
“In 2023, we will expand Command for hauling to the 139-tonne (153-ton) truck class at ioneer Ltd’s Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron mine. This is the first greenfield project in North America to use an AHS (Autonomous Haul System),” said Sean McGinnis, vice president and general manager, Cat Mining. “We are now seeing a shift toward autonomy requested on new Cat trucks. Whereas large mines with fleet sizes of more than 70 trucks were the early adopters of the technology, we are seeing economic viability for autonomy at smaller mines with a fleet of less than 15 trucks.”
Beyond expansion of Command for hauling to the Cat 785 for ioneer, Caterpillar sees potential for autonomy in quarries and aggregates. In addition, the company’s AHS technology has been deployed on the Cat 789D autonomous water truck (AWT) operating at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in Australia, reported to be the first AWT for automated watering of haul roads.