A New Twist on Fleet Management: Driverless Trucks

Caterpillar is testing autonomous vehicle technology to boost safety of heavy equipment.

 

We’re hearing a lot about developments in the area of autonomous cars: Now there’s news about using similar technologies to power construction equipment remotely as a way to bolster safety as well as efficiency.

At the recent 2017 Edison Awards, Caterpillar showed off a spate of driverless technologies it is already using to allow trucks and other heavy equipment to operate independently—in some cases, allowing machine operators to steer entire fleets on a remote site from the safety of their offices, according to an article on Futurism.com.

Caterpillar showed off its driverless stuff using a mining application as an example. Oftentimes, drivers have to navigate up and down dangerously steep inclines on mining sites or maneuver around other pieces of large equipment, which can be dicey. Caterpillar has responded by adding a host of advanced technology to its vehicles to make these mining operations safer, the article said.

For example, onboard artificial intelligence allows mining operations to physically remove a driver from a vehicle while sophisticated perception systems enable the heavy equipment to work safely around people and other vehicles, the article described. There are other operator-assist technologies that control vehicle functions to boost productivity and safety, the article said, along with functionality that lets operators control vehicles from the comfort of their offices, hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles away. In one case, the article said Caterpillar operators are already controlling fleets of three bulldozers from over 3,000 miles away.

And that’s just the beginning, noted a Caterpillar technologist, in the Futurism.com piece. The firm is committed to getting the technology to work well from any part of the world, resulting in an operator in one country being able to control a fleet on the other side of the globe.

Pretty heady stuff.

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