And now autonomous excavators

That’s right, autonomous driving technologies are not limited to cars but are gradually spreading to other types of vehicles, which have more specific tasks and need to move less.

In this way, the problem is partly simplified, which does not mean that it is very simple, since each application has its particularity.

I have seen that researchers from Baidu and the University of Maryland have developed an autonomous excavator system AES (Autonomous Excavator System) and that it can perform its tasks without human intervention.

An excavator has been equipped with vision capacity (lidar + cameras) and other pressure sensors, inclination, etc … to perfectly know the status of the machine and its environment, and thus be able to program its work.

The research has been published in Science Robotics at the end of June and it will surely attract the attention of many people, as it is a step for these machines, which are very expensive, to work without a driver 24 hours a day and its cost will be lowered in a significant way.

To have some reference numbers, the market for excavators was 44 billion in 2018 and it is expected to be 63 billion in 2026, since they are machines that work in all types of infrastructures, mines, etc … and there are many works in progress throughout the world ahead.

A very important section in these machines is the prevention of accidents, since several hundred people die every year around the world, and almost always due to a driver’s mistake

With a 3-dimensional vision and measurement system it is more difficult for these accidents to occur, as the machine does not get tired and does not get lost.

A video can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/KFcNf_k0E_M

All these robotic systems that help control the machines are going to be introduced more and more every day, and “autonomy” will be achieved in steps, since the whole system is a complex system and errors of overconfidence cannot be made.

I am an electronic engineer with more than 40 years working in industry. I like to reflect on Technological and Social issues