Giant robots harnessed to excavate the mines of the future

Credit: Vimeo

Somewhere deep in the Australian outback there are massive robots operating a mine. Each of them weighs 210 metric tons and has a voracious appetite for, er, carrying stuff. You see, the robots are dump trucks — and they could kick the crap out of Audi and Google's self-driving cars.

As part of Australia's mine of the future, the dump trucks make up the Autonomous Hauling System (AHS), and are capable of navigating their surroundings and delivering rock to on-site processing machinery. How they navigate their surroundings can be preset and altered by off-site human operators, similar to how military drones function.

While drivers are no longer needed for the trucks, the excavators are still manned. These operators are capable of sending signals to their domesticated robot dump trucks, informing them when they've been fully-loaded. The presence of these excavator operators, and other in-site positions like surveyors, mean that the autonomous dump trucks can't just parade around the mine willy-nilly. They need to be aware.

Two systems are in place to keep the dump trucks in line. First, the very same SatNav systems that keep the dump trucks from careening off a cliff are wired to recognize the signals from manned vehicles. When a manned vehicle is in range, the dump trucks know not to come too close. If drivers need to exit their vehicles, they can even tell the dump trucks to stop in their tracks when they get within 150 feet of their ride.

If that fails to do the job for whatever reason, each manned vehicle allowed into the mine is also equipped with an emergency stop button which shuts down all the robots in the entire mine instantly. If you'd like to know even more about how the AHS-enabled mine of the future works, check out the video below.

Vimeo, via Popular Science

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