The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration attributes 94 percent of all crashes to human error, mostly associated with recognition and decision errors. Research and testing done so far on autonomous vehicles point toward a much safer world. But making vehicles smart enough to navigate an incredibly complex world is not happening overnight.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, CES 2017 was a record-breaking event. With over 3,800 exhibiting companies and 175,000 worldwide attendees, this is the trade event to attend for anyone who wants to know where the future of technology is going.
Once again, one of the major themes of CES was the development of autonomous vehicles and the implementation of various sensor technologies required to ensure these vehicles are as safe and reliable as possible. With 2025 being anticipated date of fully-autonomous vehicles, it is evident that the idea of vehicle automation is now a reality. We met with various companies who are at the forefront of this development in the automotive sector, and are excited to start collaborating with them to start innovating in the heavy duty truck and equipment sector.
Drivers and pedestrians are understandably nervous about the presence of semi-autonomous passenger cars and, soon, fully autonomous passenger cars on our roads. What would these same people think if they got a glimpse of the vehicles moving through underground mines from Wyoming to Western Australia? How would they feel about 100-ton driverless bulldozers moving in unison through cramped tunnels, filling their buckets with ore and highly trained operators in offices thousands of miles away? The use of autonomous and semi-autonomous equipment is more of what we might expect at a futuristic mining colony on Mars than at a present-day mine here on Planet Earth.
For a variety of reasons, the use of remotely controlled or programmed vehicles is slowly making its impact in the underground mining industry. Underground mining is dangerous. It is competitive. And it is taking place further and further beneath the earth’s crust. For all of these reasons, mine operators and the vendors who equip them are working furiously to get human operators out of the mines and into safer locations.
Merriam-Webster defines a platoon as “… two or more squads usually led by one lieutenant.” Change “squads” to “trucks” and “lieutenant” to “driver” and you’ve got the definition of what is currently taking the trucking world by storm.
Platooning isn’t a new concept, but recent advances have made it a viable, cost-savings transportation option for trucking fleets in the not-so-distant future.
In the most heavy-duty industry of them all—the military—saving lives reigns supreme and the US Army is currently working on integrating existing advanced technologies in order to enhance the safety of the modern soldier.
Improving military fleet capabilities is an ongoing operational priority for the U.S. Army. To protect soldiers and maximize their impact, the Army is making progressive strides toward the introduction of autonomous systems in tactical vehicles in an effort to remove the risk faced by soldiers in extremely hazardous and volatile missions.
Every piece of heavy-duty equipment is different. Designed for specific, and usually logistically complicated tasks, no one-size-fits-all safety package works for every equipment type. By accounting for all of the unique variables associated with a wide range of heavy equipment, object detection systems can fill in the gaps and blind spots in safety practices over a wide range of industries. By integrating radar with other active and passive technologies, the ultimate collision mitigation safety solution comes into focus.
How does it work? PRECO's Tom Loutzenheiser recently gave a forward-thinking explanation to that question in the Idaho Business Review:
“If you look at any of the autonomous vehicles, whether cars or mining trucks, they all have lots of different sensors. There’s this concept called sensor fusion, where you work together to make a smarter vehicle. The human analogy is you have a sense of touch, a sense of smell, eyesight and ears, they all contribute to you being a safe navigator of the world. There’s the same analogy in autonomy. There are multiple sensors coming into play.”
They say never cry wolf. But what happens when there is actually a wolf? Safety technology is hitting the heavy-duty vehicle industry in spades. The ability to protect blind spots using object detection technology—no matter the working or weather conditions—is a real lifesaver for heavy-duty vehicles in any environment.
Now, when an alarm goes off that indicates something is in the way, it’s a clear call to action. Or rather, non-action. It’s a signal to stop, and do a safety check. But what if the radar’s field of view is too wide or too long—and the alert goes off too often—for relatively insignificant objects? The never cry wolf effect will set in, and that can lead to complacency.
They never take shift breaks. They do the dirty work. They face endless, brutal hazards. Driverless vehicles are on the scene in mining operations around the world and, in an industry that’s remained largely unchanged for the past 30 years, the big question looms, “How will this affect us?” Followed by the immediate concern, “Is it safe?”
First though, how do autonomous vehicles actually work? Under the hood of driverless heavy-duty fleets, you’ll find a combination of sensors, typically using radar and GPS to navigate. The GPS plots the course and mission of the vehicle. For mining operations, unmanned equipment typically moves around a pre-defined course—streamlining rigorous, tedious mining tasks like dumping and loading.
Transportation drives economic and societal progress. As it has from time immemorial. This rings especially true when it comes to the heavy-duty equipment that drives big enterprises around the world. Only now, it’s all moving forward at the rapid speed of the continuous advancement of transformative technology that could change the entire road ahead in the near future. A recent government report shows that within only three to five years, innovative tech applications may begin to have significant impacts on entire transportation systems and any vehicle-propelled industries.
With over 3,600 exhibitors and countless events and experiences, CES 2016 was the best way to kick off 2016. From automotive technology and unmanned systems to wearables and 3D printing, the spectrum of innovation on display at CES is unparelleled and and continues to expand.
The overwhelming theme of CES this year was the development of safety technology around semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles. This category is moving very quickly and appears to be a realistic mode of vehicle operation in the coming future.