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Will plant machinery be fully autonomous?

You’ve probably noticed every industry becoming more and more autonomous, but have you ever wondered whether the construction industry could be autonomous too? There have been a few advancements into the construction industry regarding autonomy but it looks like health and safety could prevent advancements into autonomous machinery.

What advancements have been made?

Recently, Komatsu released a line of autonomous dump trucks designed for the mining industry. The “Komatsu Autonomous Haulage Vehicle” is a huge, 416-tonne dumper that can carry 230 tonnes. The lack of operator in this vehicle is shocking however it shows that there truly is research going into this industry. This advancement may be an indicator that the construction industry is heading towards a more automated, robotic future.

Komatsu AHV
Komatsu AHV

We also covered an advancement into operator-less excavators a few months ago. The concept was to utilise the new 5g technology in order to make use of operators in different countries to operate excavators in remote locations. Although this was controlled by an operator, the development shocked many.

What are the dangers of autonomous machinery?

Of course, with any autonomous machinery technology, the risks have to be assessed. There are a few potential hazards that are clear. The first obvious risk is that a person could get injured by the machines if the machine does not detect them in its path. This will hopefully not be an issue as driverless technology has come a long way, especially shown by the driverless cars in the USA.

The use of operator-less technology being implemented into excavators could be dangerous also as there is potential to dig through gas lines or electrical lines. An operator should be knowledgeable of the area that they are digging however an autonomous machine may well excavate an area it isn’t meant to before it is noticed due to human error when it is programmed.

Does the industry appear to be adopting autonomous machines?

The construction industry seems to be adopting this technology, however, it doesn’t look like it will be a rapid development. The machines that are developed are far too expensive for the average construction company to buy as they run into the millions of pounds. Although, once the industry adopts it more, the production costs should fall and the technology should be more widely available for companies. Unfortunately, our courses don’t have any autonomous machinery but they might be coming in the future!

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