Several huge mines in Australia, where ore is shoveled into giant dump trucks, are now running those same trucks without drivers. Both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, are purchasing more of these self driving giants from manufacturers Komatsu and Caterpillar. The gigantic trucks, 2 stories high and 500 tons fully loaded, shuttle back and forth following the orders of automated equipment instead of a driver in the cab. These six million dollar driverless behemoths, are one more instance of humans being removed from what was once an essential position, but one that is now a target ripe for automation as technology increasingly replaces what are sometimes high paying, but are often low skill, repetitious jobs.
Google may get all of the publicity with self driving cars racking up thousands of miles on public highways, but these trucks show drivers are not quite as essential as many used to believe as more instances illustrate the ease with which drivers become sidelined. It is beginning to appear that driving may quickly become one more pleasant pastime or hobby while chores such as commuting to work, even if in a separate individually owned vehicle, are something an owner can hand off to a computer while spending those minutes and hours more productively engaged.
The engineering and innovation that enables these cars and trucks to navigate public highways and massive mines is fascinating to the technology buff, but they bring with them a forewarning of a future where the motorhead may see his love of cars become an eccentric passion and his desire to drive a quaint throwback to a time when people used to drive themselves everywhere. Imagine that!