Canada: Energy Company Switches to Self-Driving Trucks for Oil Sands Mining
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Self-driving vehicles come in various shapes and sizes these days, and a Canadian company is investing in giant ore-carrying trucks to help mine oil sands in northern Alberta.


What’s unusual is that Suncor Energy came right out and said the automation would cause 400 jobs to be cut over the next six years. The new Komatsu trucks are amazingly expensive at $5 million each, but they have the advantage of working 24 hours a day with stops needed only for refueling. Some existing trucks will be retrofitted with the technology.

Here’s a video from the Komatsu company that shows its autonomous trucks use in the mining industry:

The improving self-driving technology suggests that human drivers may increasingly lose their jobs to smart machines. So Washington should reconsider increases in immigration that seem to be on the table.

Suncor is building a fleet of 150 driverless trucks that will cut 400 jobs over the next six years

The energy company is already preparing for the switch by hiring its truck drivers on a temporary basis

CALGARY — About 400 jobs are expected to disappear at Suncor Energy Inc.’s oilsands mines in northern Alberta as it deploys driverless ore-hauling trucks to replace the ones humans operate now.

“We have about 500 roles that will get eliminated through this and we’re going to add about 100. So the net change in our workforce is about 400 positions,” chief operating officer Mark Little said in an interview Wednesday.

The company has been testing the 400-tonne capacity Komatsu trucks for about four years and has nine now. It announced Tuesday it will gradually build a fleet of more than 150 driverless trucks over the next six years, starting with the North Steepbank mine at its Base Camp north of Fort McMurray.

Suncor is the first oilsands mining operation to adopt the technology.

Tokyo-based Komatsu Ltd. this week celebrated the 10th anniversary of deployment of its first autonomous truck at a Codelco copper mine in Chile, noting that more than 100 trucks now operate at four Rio Tinto Ltd. iron ore mines in Australia, the mine in Chile and at Suncor.

On Tuesday, Melbourne-based Rio Tinto announced its autonomous haul trucks had achieved the milestone of having moved a total of one billion tonnes of material without being involved in any injury accidents. In December, it announced it would expand its fleet of about 80 trucks to 140 by the end of 2019.


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