Autonomous hauling likely underway at Fort Hills as SMS deploys largest driverless truck

Image: SMS Equipment

Komatsu’s largest autonomous truck in the world is now in commercial operations in Canada, SMS Equipment said in a statement on Monday.

While the company did not release the details on where in Canada the truck has been deployed or for what customer, chances are highly likely it is for Suncor Energy Inc. at the company’s Fort Hills oilsands mine.

SMS said the hauler is a Komatsu 980E-4AT, which is the same model as the ~50 400-tonne units that are in service at Fort Hills. The trucks, which have been operating since late 2017, are all capable of running in autonomous mode.

Neither Suncor nor SMS could be reached for comment on Tuesday.

In February, Suncor chief operating officer Mark Little said the company was getting ready to switch some of the Fort Hills haulers over.

“We’re in the process now of getting ready to turn on some of that at Fort Hills,” he said.

"At Fort Hills we never actually hired permanent staff to operate the trucks in anticipation of us putting in autonomous haul trucks, so we have some people doing contract work today. The intent would be over the next several years to roll this through and turn all of our operated mines at base plant and at Fort Hills to fully autonomous.”

Suncor initiated the roll out of autonomous hauling across its oilsands fleet in January 2018. The first of its three operated mines, North Steepbank, became fully autonomous operational in Sep. 2018.

The company has said that the commercial roll out of the trucks across its full 150-unit fleet could take up to six years.

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