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Self-driving HiLux heads to the mines

Toyota has partnered with mining equipment manufacturer Komatsu to develop an autonomous light vehicle (ALV) based on the HiLux ute and specifically designed for mining operations, with the first trial at an operational mine site starting early next year.

Komatsu’s Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) will be adapted for the HiLux, comprising advanced sensors, cameras, radar, and artificial intelligence algorithms to perceive and understand the vehicle’s surroundings so they can to navigate, accelerate, brake, and make decisions without human intervention.

Independently of Komatsu, Toyota has made significant strides in autonomous vehicle research and development through its Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which focuses on advancing autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and robotics technologies in areas like perception, machine learning, decision-making algorithms, and human-robot interaction.

Komatsu’s AHS, first introduced in 2008, is well-proven and has already made a significant impact on the global mining industry with 650 self-driving haulage trucks successfully deployd across 22 major sites in Australia, Chile, Canada, Russia and the United States

Collectively, these self-driving haul trucks have transported more than six billion metric tonnes of material, demonstrating the effectiveness and reliability of their autonomous systems.

Toyota’s ALV, using directional commands from Komatsu’s AHS, will be specifically designed to reduce the risk of accidents caused by human error and minimise slowdowns or stops of autonomous haul trucks near light vehicles.

Currently, these trucks have to slow down or halt to avoid collisions. The ALV will address this issue by allowing the seamless movement of autonomous haul trucks and light vehicles as well as minimising disruptions caused by human-operated vehicles.

The ALV will have the capability to transport equipment operators and parts for other mining equipment autonomously, promising to enhance productivity while providing a safe and efficient means of transportation throughout the mine site without the need for breaks or rest periods besides the usual refuelling and maintenance routines.

Both Toyota and Komatsu are now conducting ALV prototype tests at their respective proving grounds with the aim of a fully operational ALV proof of concept functioning at a customer site by January 2024 to help address a worker shortage in the mining sector.

The collaboration between Toyota and Komatsu extends beyond the development of the ALV; Komatsu Australia managing director Sean Taylor said both companies are also working together on hydrogen fuel cell technologies for medium-sized hydraulic excavators.

“Komatsu and Toyota have a long, strategic, global relationship, and this project is another example of this collaboration delivering value to joint customers,” said Mr Taylor.

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