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Canadian Oil Producer Rolling Out 150 Driverless Trucks
Original source: Geek

Calgary-based Suncor announced this week that they plan to add 150 of these beastly Komatsu mining trucks over the next six years at a cost north of $5 million each. The trucks will be used to automate the movement of material at Suncor’s facilities in Fort McMurray, Alberta where the company extracts petroleum from the Athabasca Oil Sands.

According to COO Mark Little, Suncor will be “the very first company to test these systems and implement them at a commercial scale” in the oil sands. Komatsu already has some customers with similar deployments. In Australia, mining giant Rio Tinto has 80 in service and plans to add 60 more by next year.

Little noted three key advantages over today’s “truck and shovel” operations. Iimproved jobsite safety is one, and Rio Tinto can attest to that. Their fleet has hauled more than a billion tons of material without being involved in a single accident. Little mentioned increased efficiency and a reduction in operational expenses.

Even when you’re a $70 billion-plus company you’ve got to constantly be on the lookout for cost-saving opportunities, right? One way Suncor’s driverless truck upgrade does that is through reduced maintenance requirements.

There’s also a reduced human requirement, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given all the ‘robots are coming for our jobs’ doom-and-gloom that’s been in the news. The downside to the switch is that it’s going to cost a lot of people their jobs.

Suncor figures that about 500 positions will be eliminated — while noting that 100 new jobs will be created. This could be the start of a trend in the Oil Sands, especially given Little’s statement that the company has a “long history of embracing and implementing game changing technologies” and “it’s simply part of [Suncor’s] DNA.”


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