Ask a group of non-miners to imagine a fleet of large trucks that come when called, position themselves for loading, then move away to their assigned dump locations—all without a single operator on board—and they’ll think it’s science fiction. But posit that same scenario to a gathering of miners, and they’ll tell you autonomous mining is quickly becoming a reality in many operations.

That’s because autonomous mining solutions eliminate the need for human machine operators, which can improve safety, equipment availability and overall productivity on any mine site. And that’s particularly important for remote operations where attracting and retaining skilled human labor is a challenge.

Autonomous machines are directed by a control system that tells them where to go and what to do. On-board intelligence systems enable these vehicles to “decide” how to navigate to the prescribed work area and accomplish the assigned tasks. Sophisticated perception technologies allow them to work seamlessly with and around other mine equipment and personnel, even in congested areas—driving safety and productivity improvements in a range of challenging environments.

An autonomous haul truck, for example, can follow an assigned lane through an ever-changing map of the mine or choose the best path from where it’s currently located to where the mine control center tells it to go. It’s even capable of stopping when something unexpected gets in its way.

The result is a safer overall mine, thanks to reduced human presence on the site itself. Plus, autonomous haulage solutions can help mine operations be more efficient and productive. Bottom line, autonomy can mean a safer, more predictable and more productive hauling operation.

Is autonomous mining a reality on your mine, or will it be in the near future? Do you see autonomous trucks as a positive change for the industry? How do you think autonomy will change the way mining is planned and executed in your part of the world—and what will it mean for your mine specifically?

Tell us your thoughts, then learn more about autonomous haulage: Cat MineStar System/Command for hauling.