back to article Driverless trucks roam Australian mines

Mining company Rio Tinto has turned to driverless trucks to operate mines in Western Australia. The multinational digger has just confirmed it has let the trucks roam free at the Nammuldi iron ore mine, a hole in the ground located in more or less the middle of nowhere, as the nearest town, Tom Price, is 60km away. Nammuldi and …

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Silver badge
Terminator

The Future

In the future, all work places will consist of robots, a man and a dog. The robots do the work. The dog is to guard the robots and the man is there to feed the dog.

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Re: The Future

Airbus now has a single pilot + dog cockpit. The pilot is there to feed the dog - and the dog is there to bite the pilot if they try and touch the controls

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The real savings are surprising.

Amazingly these systems pay for themselves purely in tire wear. Each tire on these things costs $30,000 and supply is often very very tight. Human (or Australian) drivers will take corners at too high a speed and skid slightly wearing the tires - the robot takes every corner like your maiden aunt, on an advanced driving course, with a hot McDonalds coffee between her legs

They've been used underground for a decade. With pedestrians around you are generally limited to little more than walking pace for scoops (underground haulage) with the level totally empty and just automated trucks you can run as fast as technically possible - 30 or 50km/h

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The real savings are surprising.

More automation may also be good for the Australian economy as mining will no longer be sucking up people from various professions to go earn a fortune driving big trucks - an inefficient skilled to unskilled drain. There are certainly a few I know - teachers, etc - that will likely end up back in their profession which is good for supply there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The real savings are surprising.

So life in Tom Price and similar hellhole company hamlets gets worse --- no more truckdrivers (of various backgrounds) to have a few beers with.

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Silver badge

Re: The real savings are surprising.

Most of these places are flyin-flyout. You work 7 /10/14 days on and the same off, you live on site and get all meals provided - like an oil rig. The food is good though - surf''n'turf is an easy way to keep your staff happy!

But the site is completely dry - nobody driving 300tonnes of truck worth $5M is getting anywhere near a beer, and expect to get your luggage seriously inspected for drugs - even if you are just a programmer going in to fix something.

If you can handle the boredom of driving at 10km/h for the same 15min round trip for a 12hour shift - you make more than I do as a programmer and half half the year at home.

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Bronze badge

And I, for one.....

Welcome our robotic wagon driving overlords. That's a big ten-four, rubber duck.

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Re: And I, for one.....

It's bloody terrifying it is.

Thankfully less bloody terrifying than trucks driven by Australians. At least the robots will be sober.

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Alien

Re: And I, for one.....

"...ten-four, rubber duck."

Is there a robotic chartreuse micro-bus with 11 long-haired Friends of Jesus (who may or may not be robotic) ?

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Anonymous Coward

Not to mention...

.. they dont fret, whine, ask for raises etc...etc..

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Silver badge

Re: Not to mention...

Oh, they do.

Just the raise is called differently: "Software upgrade", "Old model obsolete", "Increase in the cost of parts" and goes directly to the manufacturer.

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Anonymous Coward

And clearly nothing to do with the ideas of this person, obviously ;)

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-09-05/news/33623328_1_lang-hancock-richest-woman-29th-richest-person

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Rise of the Machines

<Insert obligatory SKYNET comment here>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rise of the Machines

It's not all bad - worst case is that the fleet of trucks becomes self-aware, learns how to fuel themselves and turns large parts of Australia into a wilderness that's hazardous to human life...

Best case is that the fleet of trucks becomes self-aware, learns how to fuel themselves and starts improving the global gene pool by reducing the Australian contingent....

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J P

Re: Rise of the Machines

That's all fine until they learn to swim (or hitch a ride on the laser toting sharks)

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Re: Rise of the Machines

"It's not all bad - worst case is that the fleet of trucks becomes self-aware, learns how to fuel themselves and turns large parts of Australia into a wilderness that's hazardous to human life..."

Large parts of Australia are already a wilderness that is hazardous to human life.

We have 24 of the top 25 most poisonous snakes. Some pretty good spiders, jellyfish and blue ringed octopus, Ivan Milat and Dannii Minogue...

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Holmes

Re: Rise of the Machines

"turns large parts of Australia into a wilderness that's hazardous to human life"

Australia already is a wilderness hazardous to human life.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rise of the Machines

In that case, try reading the best case.....

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Anonymous Coward

Oh dear...

The most fun you can have hacking ever..

anon icon obv.

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Silver badge

Re: Oh dear...

Hacking? All the joyriding is probably done from the remote control at the Perth facility. It's a good thing they don't have the remote(control) drive at the remote(isolated) site - I doubt it would take long for the few humans out in the middle of nowhere to start playing chicken with the trucks.

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Bronze badge
Terminator

Caterpillar have a similar system as part of their MineStar Package. They also do remote control dozers with a remote station but also line-of-site with a proper hand-held remote control :D http://bit.ly/TpxmW6 Basically big kids with grown up toys

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Silver badge

I've seen a catalogue of radio-controlled demolition machines- basically full-size 360º diggers fitted with concrete-smashing equipment (though smaller models more resemble a bomb disposal robot). A little boy inside me whooped for joy!

Had I seen it twenty years ago, I would have grabbed a pen and started to write:

"Dear Jim, Can you fix it for me to smash a derelict building to the ground with a massive radio controlled digger?"

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Anonymous Coward

I think you'll find Mr Saville would be more interested in minors than miners buddy.

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Anonymous Coward

I won't hear a word spoken against Jimmy Saville...

...after he fixed it for me to milk a cow whilst blindfolded.

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Anonymous Coward

Refuelling

How does that work at this totally un-manned place then?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Refuelling

Just select 'pay at pump'. Simples.

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Anonymous Coward

It's gotta be better than....

...letting minors drive such huge trucks!

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As far as I'm aware, "GPS" won't work underground.

But of course you can wire your tunnels for location.

Still, I assume this is work on the surface, or "open cast" mining, i.e. just scrape all of the land off to get at the goodies underneath.

Mining is an unpleaant and frequently deadly job, such as in that case in New Zealand, and many others. (Yes, ruthless unscrupulous negligent mine owners, the same as all the others there have ever been.) Even living near one isn't safe, as in Aberfan. It's a bugger for your community if your kids can't get jobs down the mine like you did, but it's also a pretty poor show if they do. So let robots and remote-controlled machinery do it. Hurrah for the Descent of the Machines.

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Re: As far as I'm aware, "GPS" won't work underground.

C'mon, Rob - you could at least glance at the pictures if you're not going to read the article. They - and the video - confirm that it is indeed surface mining.

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Silver badge

Re: As far as I'm aware, "GPS" won't work underground.

Mining is a fascinating well paid and generally safe job in most civilised countries ( well Australia and Canada) at least if you stay out of coal mining. Compared to construction or forrestry where people seem to go out of their way to try and kill themselves, deep hard-rock mining is safe as houses.

The main drawback is that the mines are generally in the middle of nowhere, in the sort of town where a fancy night out is the hot dogs at the gas station - they dream of one day getting a McDonalds

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FAIL

Re: As far as I'm aware, "GPS" won't work underground.

Oh they can, and do, get McDonalds. If you ever have the misfortune to get on one of the flights to a FIFO site, you'll be accompanied by many malodorous boxes of their product. They are so treasured by the remote worker that there are some who are willing to eat them cold/reheated. Same goes for carrying Krispy Kreme doughnuts from Sydney airport to Perth (WHY?!?!).

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Alien

Where have I seen that kind of scenery before?

Looks a bit like practice for mining on Mars!

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Pint

Precise Dumping

I could do with that precise dumping tech after a Friday night curry session.

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Harvesting

An acquaintance works in Oz part of the year, driving vining machines during harvest season (good money). It takes half an hour to travel from one end to the other, the plains are that huge. All he does is snooze at the wheel and wait for the beeper to warn him that it's nearly time to turn around and go the other way. GPS guidance does everything else.

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