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Robot lorries heading for UK roads

This Autonomous Hauling System, in use by the British-Australian metals and mining company Rio Tinto Iron Ore, is a series of robotic trucks that load, haul, and dump ore and waste rock at open pit mines.

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Imagine Google’s self-driving cars, except gigantic: each 210-metric-ton truck is 27 feet wide and 51 feet long, and can carry 320 metric tons.

As the this video from Australian animation company Toucan Creative explains, these robot dump trucks have hauled ore in Western Australia since December 2008. Last April, the dump trucks collectively hit a major milestone: 100 million metric tons moved, including work at three different mines.

Although 15 of the dump trucks work in Australia’s iron-rich Pilbara region, they are controlled from a Rio Tinto headquarters in Perth, Australia—930 miles away.

Key to the trucks’ success is their ability to operate 24 hours a day. (Turns out humans, who need to sleep and use the bathroom and stuff, are really inefficient.) The dump trucks, which communicate wirelessly, navigate using a very precise GPS and can autonomously detect obstacles. They can avoid other vehicles or follow behind them, and are linked to a computer in charge of supervising their actions. Robots overseeing robots! This is the type of job that is ideal for robots to take over from humans: the work is tedious, exhausting, and dangerous.

The Star recently reported that ‘robot lorries’ would soon be heading for UK roads, under plans to revolutionise the UK haulage industry.

The 10 strong convoy platoons, linked by wi-fi, are meant to cut emissions but the AA last night branded them as “dangerous”.

AA president Edmund King said: “While HGV platoons might work in Australia’s Outback, freeways in Nevada or deserted highways in Sweden, I don’t think they would work on our congested motorways.”

The LGV Training Company’s Head of Training said ‘I can’t see it happening in my lifetime, but it’s an interesting concept – part of what makes this Industry so exciting is seeing concepts like this which push the boundaries of the Haulage Industry we know today.’

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