Novel Developments Transforming Global Autonomous Off-Highway Equipment
Cross-industry collaboration, bundling of services, and public and private sector synergies will be important
The ability to handle extreme loads, continuous 24/7 operation, and safety are driving the development of autonomous technologies for off-highway equipment. Development of automation will move faster here than in the on-highway space mainly because of the standardized and often-isolated mining, construction, and agricultural operating environment combined with labor shortages and higher operating costs overall. Autonomous off-highway equipment probably will hit the market even before self-driving cars do, reversing a trend in which off-highway equipment followed automotive by 10 years in technology adoption.
At least 43 companies have operated or are operating autonomous equipment through on-site trials and pilots. Through staged retrofitting, site operators and integration leaders will approach autonomy in a paced manner, with mining applications as initial adopters (driven by mining haul trucks). Earth-moving construction equipment and tractors also will be ideal for autonomous operation. Further cooperation between industry associations, governments, and OEMs will accelerate the development of regulatory mandates, while OEM synergies with Tier I suppliers and tech companies will significantly drive down costs and increase competitiveness with conventional equipment. Collaboration between established stakeholders and new-age tech companies is already happening and will become more common.
Equipped with retrofit kits and more pilot results, OEMs will be more successful in convincing potential customers of the benefits of autonomous machines. Labor shortages, higher fuel prices, and increasing operational costs will force companies to accelerate the pace of advancement and explore various formulas to upgrade technology. Increased efficiency and utilization and lower operational costs will be prioritized, which will influence technology choice and purchase patterns.
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