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Sandvik celebrates 20 years of its giant self-driving mining vehicle with arty film

Sandvik, the well known Swedish maker of massive mining vehicles, is celebrating 20 years of its driverless “Automated Loader” with an arty film in which it navigates and then melodramatically destroys a glass labyrinth. (See videos below.)

In recent years, self-driving vehicles have become a frequent discussion topic, mainly because there are so many autonomous road-going vehicles being developed by the leading automakers.

But in the mining industry, driverless vehicles have been around a long time and have been busy being productive. The Sandvik loaders are about the size of a truck. 

Sandvik has had automated loaders and trucks working in mines for over 20 years. And the company says that, in all that time, the vehicles have operated with “zero accidents involving people”.

To prove its capabilities, Sandvik moved things above ground in a new film where they put their latest generation of automation to the test.

In the film, an 11-meter-long, 38-tonne Sandvik mining loader self-navigates through a labyrinth of glass. To prove the feat’s realness, Sandvik Group CEO Björn Rosengren takes over the driving at the end and crashes into the glass labyrinth.

Rosengren says: “Some of today’s most sophisticated technology is found within Sandvik’s different business areas.

“We’ve always worked close to our customers developing new products and technologies. Going forward we clearly see automation and digitalization as key areas. It will help both Sandvik and our customers to be more productive, efficient and sustainable.”

Sandvik´s AutoMine system means that Sandvik loaders and trucks learn the safest and most efficient route the first time they enter a tunnel.

Guided by a set of lasers, the equipment’s intelligent system maps out and records a path.

Sandvik’s patented algorithms, together with its sensors and gyroscopes, ensure the machine knows where to go underground, where GPS is not possible.

Jouni Koppanen, senior systems engineer for automation at Sandvik mining and rock technology, says: “Sandvik automated loaders have been in use for more than 20 years, with over 2 million operating hours underground.

“Autonomous systems improve safety and productivity for our customers. For the first time ever the entire cycle can be automated, from loading to hauling and dumping. Nobody has been able to do that before.”