Komatsu, Toyota to develop autonomous light vehicles
By Chad Elmore18 May 2023
Collaboration expected to accelerate autonomy in mining operations
Komatsu Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. have launched a joint project to develop an Autonomous Light Vehicle that will run on Komatsu’s Autonomous Haulage System (AHS). To realize further safety and productivity improvements in mines by running autonomous haul trucks and automated ALV controlled by AHS, Komatsu and Toyota will jointly develop new technologies.
As part of the work, Komatsu will develop a new ALV management program on its AHS, while Toyota will develop an ALV which runs autonomously under the control of AHS. Toyota’s light-duty vehicles, especially its Land Cruiser trucks, have long been popular in above- and underground mining.
Both companies are currently testing a concept ALV at their proving grounds, and expect to have a proof of concept at a customer site by January 2024.
Since the launch of AHS in 2008, Komatsu said it has deployed over 650 trucks at 22 sites in five countries.
Currently, when AHS-enabled autonomous haul trucks and manual light vehicles used for maintenance or transport are running on haulage roads at the same time, autonomous haul trucks may decrease their speed or stop when passing light vehicles to avoid possible collisions caused by human error. On the other hand, the company said customer demand for improved productivity in mine operations when it comes to autonomous haul truck operating efficiency remains an issue.
Minerals and energy resources are essential, and autonomy reportedly offers the opportunity to remove people from harm’s way and enhance safety. It can allow mining customers the ability to continue the hard work of providing critical minerals despite the ongoing challenge of labor shortages. It can also provide additional safety measures to mine sites on which multiple pieces of equipment are operated, in an effort to reduce accidents due to human error.
In light of those circumstances and in an effort to solve those issues quickly, Komatsu and Toyota expect its work will accelerate autonomy in mines.
Some of the stated goals for the technology include minimizing speed reductions or brief stops of autonomous haul trucks while passing light vehicles on a haul road, the autonomous transfer of parts for other mining equipment working in the field, and the autonomous transfer of equipment operators for other machines such as loading equipment or bulldozers.