Driving as we know it is on the cusp of revolutionary change. Instead of owning your own car, in the future people will use on-demand driverless vehicles, which travel at maximum possible speed and communicate with one-another to avoid collision. There will be no more traffic signals and traffic jams will become a thing of the past.
It may seem fanciful, yet with some commercially-available vehicles already deploying state-of-the-art motion-detection technology to recognize and react to what is happening around them, and the major car manufacturers, and companies like Google and Apple developing driverless vehicles concepts, this vision is slowly becoming a reality.
Media attention has created a real buzz about the possibilities of driverless vehicles and their potential. However, the logistics and regulations surrounding the issue means that widespread adoption is probably still decades away.
As a result, trucks, not cars, are in pole position to form the world’s first network of truly driverless vehicles. Indeed Australian mining companies, under pressure to reduce costs and increase output without compromising safety, are already trialing Autonomous Hauling Systems (AHS) where trucks can load and dump ore and navigate haul roads without the presence of a driver.
The trucks are fitted with high-precision GPS, obstacle detection systems, and a vehicle controller system, all of which is connected to a 4G LTE network, which permits real-time monitoring of operations to take place at a control centre thousands of kilometers away.
One of the advantages of deploying LTE is the increased bandwidth available. It allows the use of multiple high-definition CCTV cameras even in areas susceptible to radio disturbance. The network also provides dependable quality of service management, high resiliency and cyber protection, and low latency of just 10ms, which is essential for a driverless vehicle requiring fast response times and real-time connections with the surrounding environment and operations centre.
In addition, LTE contributes to reducing operations costs by utilizing an IP protocol which will enable mining companies to converge their communication systems and other applications onto a single network architecture. This will provide greater operational efficiency. And with the solution scalable to meet new technologies and services as they become available, LTE can provide the foundation for adoption of M2M technologies and automation throughout all areas of operation, further helping mining companies to boost the efficiency of their operations. Indeed 4G LTE is the logical network on which to develop and deliver not only automated hauling systems but also entirely driverless freight trains for pit to port operations.
While groups of driverless trucks for mining are arguably more straightforward applications than public road and city applications, they are no less innovative. Companies like Google and Apple may be generating the headlines, but heavy industry suppliers such as Caterpillar, Belaz, Komatsu and Liebherr are equally pioneering driverless technologies, and they are set to be the first to deliver meaningful results.
For more information about how 4G LTE and other Nokia applications and technologies can benefit the mining industry, download the White Paper: Re-imagine mining networks for 2020 and beyond.
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