Engineering & Mining Journal

NOV 2018

Engineering and Mining Journal - Whether the market is copper, gold, nickel, iron ore, lead/zinc, PGM, diamonds or other commodities, E&MJ takes the lead in projecting trends, following development and reporting on the most efficient operating pr

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AUTONOMOUS HAULAGE SYSTEMS NOVEMBER 2018 • E&MJ 55 The autonomous truck operates with such repeatable precision that the engineers are now incorporating "vectoring," where an algorithm shifts the haulage route lat- erally a meter or so to keep the trucks from wearing ruts in the haul road. FrontRunner also expects to hear reg- ularly from certain sensors on board the truck. "These sensors, such as the steer- ing sensors, act as a heartbeat," Cook said. "The system is looking for data at least once a second. The truck will slow down if the system is not getting confir- mation signals from those sensors." During system development, Modular performs a stability test. "Once we have a software candidate for release, we will conduct thousands of tests, troubleshoot- ing everything, not just the custom chang- es we made for this particular system," Cook said. "If an unexplained event occurs in the field after the system is installed, we try to replicate it here and troubleshoot it." FrontRunner looks for the commands from Dispatch. The truck gets its assign- ment as far as dig or dump location. It gets kicked out from the shovel and goes to the assigned dump point, dumps and then waits for the return assignment. "We work with dynamic assignments," Cook said. "If something happens in the cycle where the digging goes down, Dispatch reassigns the trucks automatically." Whether it's loaded or empty, each truck projects a path based on its momen- tum. "The trucks are using those paths as permission," Cook said. "They are buying real estate ahead of them and releasing it behind them. Two trucks can't own the same piece of real estate. Each vehicle has a safety bubble that protects the driv- er. Manned vehicle interactions, passing and travel modes, cause the trucks to stop or at least change its characteristics, such as slowing it down." Komatsu recently organized a third- party hack to find vulnerabilities. "Wi-Fi is the weak point," Cook said. "To pro- tect against that, we have a number of firewalls. Most mines operate in rather remote locations and the hackers would have to be physically present near the site. It's not so easy to get to the Pilbara or the Canadian oil sands. What we deter- mined is that, if there were a problem, it would most likely be an internal issue." The biggest fear, Cook explained, would be ransom software. "If they took control of the system, they could try to extort money," Cook said. "But, the system is backed up, so we could shut it down and reload it." When it comes to double-sided loading, a lot of manned-operations claim they are using it, but the results are not nearly as repeatable as autonomous operations. In the future, manned operations could take advantage of guided spotting, a technique that guides operators to the optimum load- ing location. "We are past proof of concept on this technology and it's truck agnostic," Cook said. "The second phase will feed in- formation into a machine controller, which would allow a manned truck to be backed into position autonomously." "With autonomous mining, the mines face a choice," Cook said. "They can pro- duce more tons with the same spread. Or, they can park equipment and produce the same amount. Everything is site specif- ic, but a typical operation that would be using 18 trucks might be able to do the

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