Caterpillar envisions robotic bulldozers

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Robotic bulldozers and other construction equipment could autonomously mine for precious metals or help build future houses. Caterpillar, the famous maker of heavy construction equipment, is developing robotic and remotely-controlled construction vehicles that take advantage of GPS navigation. Mark Pflederer, the chief technology officer of Caterpillar, told Reuters that driverless earthmovers could be just a "few years away".

Pflederer added that in 10 to 15 years, multiple bulldozers and trucks could be controlled from remote locations. Mining is one area that could substantially benefit from robotics. Many of the shallow mines are currently running out or depleted of precious minerals or ore, so deeper mines have to be dug. Deeper mines are generally more dangerous and in light of recent mining tragedies, robotic diggers could be an easy sell to mining companies.

Pflederer told Reuters that Caterpillar would focus on remote controlled vehicles first and said, ""Maybe it's just remote control. Maybe it's completely autonomous." He added that completely autonomous construction equipment would be the 'dream' of Caterpillar.

Caterpillar is investing quite some money to make this automation happen. The company will spend $1.3 billion in research and development this year, which is 30% more than last year. According to Reuters, Caterpillar has traditionally spent between 3 and 3.7 percent of their revenue on research and development.