VIDEO: Caterpillar says miners are buying autonomous trucks to operate more safely

Mine operators main motivation for going with autonomous trucks is to make their mines safer, says Ed McCord, general manager of the truck division, during an interview at MINExpo.

The customer says the mine has to be safer with autonomous trucks rather than using drivers. After safety the second motivation is cost. Hiring drivers to work in remote locations can be expensive.

McCord says in the end the real savings is productivity rather than containing costs. Autonomous trucks can just be driven longer and more efficiently.

"We are running autonomous trucks in the US now and have been since June 2011," says McCord.

"We will be running in Australia early in 2013."

There are no driver-less trucks being produced at Caterpillar yet.

"Longer term, the potential certainly exists to develop a truck that is purely autonomous," says McCord.

"That would allow us to do away with the cab, do away with all the compromises because of the need to protect the operator."

When the driver drops out of the design considerations, significant improvements in haulage can be realized.

At MINExpo McCrod said the most impressive product announcement from the truck division is the MT5300D AC 320-ton-capacity (290-tonne-capacity) mining truck, which is part of the company's ongoing investment in the Unit Rig products that it acquired through Bucyrus International.