For all the talk of Silicon Valley’s tech giants being in the driving seat of the autonomous vehicle revolution, one company has been innovating in this space for two decades.
Sandvik is a global leader in providing cutting-edge technology to the construction and mining industries, and their next generation of self-driving tech will be a game-changer in Australia.
To prove it with a bang (literally!), an intricate labyrinth of 589 glass sheets was assembled to show how effortlessly the latest vehicles can navigate challenging spaces - until Sandvik CEO Björn Rosengren takes over the wheel, that is.
While precision isn’t the first word you think of for a traditional 38-tonne machine, Sandvik’s vehicles are designed to operate autonomously in harsh environments underground and continuously evolve using intelligent systems.
Watch the feat of engineering above to see it for yourself.
The Road To Innovation
Sandvik has been engineering automated loaders and trucks since the 90s, with an impressive track record of zero accidents involving people after more than 2 million operating hours underground.
Now, for the first time ever, its automated vehicles can complete the entire mining production cycle from loading to hauling and dumping.
In fact, Sandvik is the only company in the world to automate the loader’s bucket filling, following rigorous development at the test mine in Tampere, Finland.
There’s plenty of sophisticated tech at work to make the precision of Sandvik’s vehicles so effortless, including sensors that activate the brakes if needed.
An intelligent system means loaders and trucks learn routes the first time they enter an underground space. Lasers help map out and record the optimal path, while patented algorithms, sensors and gyroscopes guide the way.
Operators are located above ground in control rooms, away from potentially dangerous environments, and can monitor what’s happening through onboard cameras.
They are also able to control multiple vehicles, although the idea is that the AI does all the hard work, such as calculating route, speed, steering, loading, hauling and dumping.
The versatile machines have a high level of accuracy and efficiency, as well as being able to withstand all the elements you would expect it to encounter, including altitude, heat, water and corrosive environments.
Self-Driving Into The Future
This next-level tech is in use right now in Australia and has allowed one customer to automate their entire mine.
Jouni Koppanen, Senior Systems Engineer for Automation at Sandvik, explained: “They still have the same number of people working as they did before, but now most are above ground in comfortable offices.
“Right now, our automated loaders and trucks work in a zone that is completely isolated from people and other equipment.
“In the future we envision automated loaders and trucks operating safely in the same part of a mine as conventional equipment and people.”
Other innovations in the works for Koppanen and the rest of the Sandvik team include all-electric mines.
As for the glass maze, the spectacular display of innovation was the result of Sandvik’s commitment to ground-breaking technology, giving customers the highest levels of productivity, safety and efficiency.
More than 40,000 global employees make that possible, including 2,600 researchers in 50 R&D centres.
And if you're wondering, all the glass in the video was recycled, in line with Sandvik's mission to integrate sustainability into all areas of business.