Heavy Equipment Guide Logo

Bigger not always better when it comes to autonomous trucks: Pronto study

An articulated dump truck on a road around a rock pit.
Larger fleets of smaller autonomous trucks may pay dividends on mine sites, a new study suggests. Pronto

A study released by Autonomous Haulage System developer Pronto and Whittle Consulting, a global expert in integrated strategic planning for the mining industry, suggests that the concept of "bigger is better" may not be true when it comes to automated mining haul trucks.

The study, "Autonomous Swarm Haulage: The Economics of Autonomous Haulage with Small Trucks," is based on analysis by Whittle Consulting, which modeled the net present value (NPV) of mining a representative copper ore body through four different scenarios, taking into account all facets of the mining value chain over an 18-year life-of-mine (LOM) horizon.

Key findings of the study include:

  • The modeled mine operating with a fleet of autonomous 40-ton haul trucks would realize a 31 percent greater NPV than if the mine were operated with a fleet of manually driven 100-ton off-road haul trucks.
  • Autonomy significantly improved effective utilization by reducing truck downtime, standby, and operating delays to 5 percent of availability versus 20 percent for manual vehicles.
  • One theorized flaw in the small truck logic was the prospect of traffic congestion caused by the increase in the number of trucks operating in the mine, potentially overcoming the efficiency gains of small trucks and automation. In the study's simulations, such traffic congestion did not materialize.

"The industry has long debated whether mining economics shift to favour smaller trucks when autonomous," said Gerald Whittle, CEO, Whittle Consulting. "We're excited to publish the first rigorous analysis that demonstrates that, for most mines, the answer is yes."

The study also concluded that converting an existing fleet of haul trucks to autonomous operations increased NPV, irrespective of truck size. Both conclusions are consistent with industry experience and past studies, including Whittle Consulting's 2018 Autonomous Haulage Report.

"This study is exciting because it clearly articulates one of the many ways in which autonomy is revolutionizing the global economy today," commented Anthony Levandowski, CEO of Pronto. "The results also illustrate why our strategy has been centered around making automation accessible to the majority of mines and quarries around the world that aren't running the Ultra Class trucks that the legacy AHS providers have been focused on."

Pronto had previously demonstrated the commercial benefits of an AHS capable of scaling down to the smallest trucks and smallest operations, and the Pronto-Whittle study substantiates that by identifying the specifics of why small trucks are favoured when autonomous: lower maintenance costs, better fuel efficiency, faster haul speeds, narrower benches and steeper pit walls are possible, and better overall fleet utilization, among others.

Company info

1186 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA
US, 94103-3927


Read more

Related Articles