In its industrial habitat, Sandvik’s new generation of automated loader will navigate dark rock tunnels deep underground. To showcase the equipment, however, Sandvik opted for a proving ground that would shed more light on the capabilities of the self-driving loader. A glass labyrinth of 589 glass sheets, measuring 2.8 metres by 0.6 metres, was constructed to test the system on a 38-tonne LH 514 mining machine.

Even though the complicated glass labyrinth offers the bulky loader limited space for navigation, the loader threaded its way through, leaving the fragile walls intact. That is more than can be said for Sandvik CEO Björn Rosengren, who took some joy in making it clear that the glass maze was no optical illusion.  


The system is guided by a set of lasers, as well as sensors and gyroscopes, which enable the loader to navigate underground where a GPS system will not work. And with the assistance of algorithms, the intelligent automated system studies the surroundings in its line of sight, creates a path and commits a map to memory. This guides the loader through the safest, quickest and most efficient course when initially entering the tunnel.

 Pioneering the future

While up on the surface streets, where many companies are competing to lead the field in the development of self-driving vehicles, Sandvik can already report more than two million hours of operating self-driving trucks and loaders underground. These hours span together to represent more than two decades of work in actual mines, without a single accident involving a worker. So, on top of the productivity and efficiency of the automated loader system, it also makes for a safer workplace. Operators can safely operate the loaders in the mining terrain from a distance, and let the automated system handle the difficult and dangerous driving tasks. Removing the workers from the immediate mining site, reduces the risks of accidents, smoke inhalation and emission exposure.

The latest generation of Sandvik’s autonomous operation continues to build on the promise that its innovative technologies, which also include an automated loading system for filling the bucket, can improve the mining industry workspace. In addition to automation, Sandvik is also leading the charge to electrify the mining industry, having already deployed battery-powered loaders and become a leading partner in the project to create the world’s first all-electric underground mine at Borden Lake, Ontario, guaranteeing cleaner air, fewer emissions and lower production costs.