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Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute and Caterpillar Inc.

POSTED 09/09/2008

PITTSBURGH—Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute are working with colleagues at Caterpillar Inc. to develop autonomous versions of large haul trucks used in mining operations.

The Robotics Institute will be adapting more than a decade’s worth of its research into self-driving vehicles for use with Caterpillar’s two largest haul trucks, each with payload capacities of 240 tons or more. This is the first major project resulting from a three-year master agreement for sponsored research signed last year by Carnegie Mellon and Caterpillar, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction, mining and other heavy equipment. Researchers at the Robotics Institute’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) will work closely with Caterpillar’s Pittsburgh Automation Center, which opened in September 2007.

“We’ve assembled a great team of people from across the institute who are excited to play a major role in delivering this groundbreaking capability,” said Tony Stentz, the principal investigator and associate director of the NREC.

 “This project is one of many allowing researchers and engineers from the National Robotics Engineering Center and Caterpillar to create innovative solutions for differentiated Cat products and services, with increased speed to market,” said Sam Kherat, manager of the Pittsburgh Automation Center.

The driverless haul truck is part of an autonomous mining haulage system that Caterpillar recently announced it is developing with BHP Billiton Ltd., a leading global resources company. Plans call for autonomous trucks to be integrated into some BHP Billiton mine sites by 2010. The autonomous technology is designed to provide productivity gains through more consistency in processes. It is expected that autonomous mining will help minimize environmental impact by both improved efficiency and overall mine safety.

The Carnegie Mellon team will be adapting perception, planning and autonomous software architectures that it originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) UGCV-PerceptOR (UPI) autonomous vehicle program and the DARPA Urban Challenge robot race. Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., was a major sponsor of the Carnegie Mellon Tartan Racing team that won the $2 million Urban Challenge race in Victorville, Calif., last November.

 “This is a perfect example of how Caterpillar’s long-term relationship with Carnegie Mellon can strengthen our position as the industry’s technical leader,” said Gwenne Henricks, vice president of Caterpillar’s Electronics & Connected Worksite Division.