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Canada Transportation AI Technology

Autonomous Dump Trucks Are Coming To Canada's Oil Sands 165

Daniel_Stuckey writes "According to a Bloomberg report, Canadian oil sands giant Suncor, which is "Canada's largest energy company by market value," is currently testing haul trucks that are run by computers. Extracting bitumen from sands requires first digging up an enormous amount of the sand itself, with about two tons of sands required to produce one barrel of oil. Digging up all of that sand is the job of huge excavators, which then offload into gigantic haul trucks that transport sands to extraction plants. Time is money, and in this case being faster means carrying as much sand as possible. Haul trucks can carry hundreds of tons at a time, and are in constant motion, moving back and forth between excavator and extraction plant."
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Autonomous Dump Trucks Are Coming To Canada's Oil Sands

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  • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Friday November 01, 2013 @06:21PM (#45306037) Homepage

    If you drive a vehicle for a living, start training for another job ASAP. This is the tip of the iceberg. I honestly think that in 25 years zero humans will be paid to drive a vehicle.

  • by TrumpetPower! ( 190615 ) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Friday November 01, 2013 @06:38PM (#45306225) Homepage

    If anybody still needs evidence that we're past peak oil, this is it.

    Re-read that summary: two tons of sand have to be hauled away to the processing center just to get a single barrel of oil.

    And remember Deepwater Horizon? The rig that went kablooie in the Gulf? The wellhead was a mile below the surface of the ocean, and the top of the deposits were seven miles below bedrock.

    Long gone are the days when you had to be careful with your pickaxe in Texas lest you set off a gusher. We're now washing two tons of sand per barrel of oil just to feed the habit.

    Oh, sure. There's still lots of oil left in the ground. About half as much as there was at the start of the industrial revolution, in fact. But it's all the nasty low-quality expensive shit that we would have laughed and turned up our noses at in the '70s. But not today.

    Worst of all, we're now consuming oil at a faster rate than ever before in history. The only way we could keep the remaining half of reserves to last another century is if we decreased production by 2% - 3% annually, same as it used to grow. Can you imagine a century's worth of that kind of contraction?


    Then get ready for price shocks and the crash to end all crashes as we run out of what little is left in mere decades, and not that many.



  • Re:Obsolete Humans (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger ( 210566 ) on Friday November 01, 2013 @06:40PM (#45306231) Homepage
    For about the last two or three decades, as more and more jobs and manufacturing have moved offshore, I've asked people: what will you do for that large swath of the population who used to work for Ford, or Whirlpool, or General Electric, and who now are literally unemployable?

    Forty or fifty years ago "ordinary" people could take a job at the local factory, make enough to support a family and buy a house, and know that after 35 years they would have a good pension to retire on.

    When I say "ordinary" I mean the people who won't ever go to university, who will never become computer programmers or doctors, and who surely aren't about to be "entrepreneurs." The people who used to be called "working stiffs" or "blue collar workers."

    Once the blue collar jobs are gone, what do you do with these people - say a quarter of your population? Wal-mart jobs? Call centers? Waving pizza signs on street corners?
  • Not just driving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Friday November 01, 2013 @07:37PM (#45306837)
    I don't think that people realize the tsunami of change that is coming through automation. Basically if you do something repetitive and with a basic set of rules then your job is probably going bye bye. A list of jobs that comes to mind, almost all assembly line manufacturing, warehouse work, much in the way of machining, much in the way of welding, some construction such as many parts of the road construction business, cleaning, waiters, cooks, security, almost all of agriculture, things like baggage handling, most retail work such as stocking shelves, checkouts, and of course many driving jobs such as trucking, taxi, pizza delivery.

    This all comes down to three simple questions, can it be done better, more reliably, and cheaper?

    Each of these questions will have interesting twists. I suspect that in the above case of the robot trucks that they will occasionally screw up and not want to cross a puddle or some stupidity but that over all costs will drop and consistent productivity will be, on average, much higher. The same with say replacing a cook with a robot; it might not be better than the best cooks but as long as it is better than average, costs less, and the owner doesn't have to worry about it showing up on time then bye bye cooks.

    But again the key is that robots will be so much better at certain things as to make them far more valuable then a simple spreadsheet analysis might indicate. In the case of a robot cook, if it is always preparing food in an extremely consistent way and always there then you might think that it isn't much better than a chef who only misses 2 days a year and only has 2 off days per year. But the reality is that an off day or a long wait due to a missing cook could kill off a few regular customers resulting in a much larger loss than the few nights directly impacted.

    The next impact will be that robots have the ultimate case of OCD. So if you want you could have the robots go out into the field and pick the bugs, one at a time, off your plants. This is simply something that humans won't do as they would lose their minds. The same with things like cooking. A robot could place exactly 23 onions onto a certain dish placed in (artistically designed) exacting locations. A table in the restaurant could be told that their meals will be ready in 6 minutes 3 seconds as the chef has plotted the temperatures of the meat and knows exactly how long each step is going to take.

    A simple example of this sort of variation having an impact can be observed with the medical helicopters that fly over my house. One of the pilots sets the collective wrong and the helicopter is noisy. He also is ponderous about leaving the helipad and flies fairly slowly. The other pilot lifts off and in one nice smooth movement turns, speeds up, retracts the gear, and is off like a flash. The landings are basically the same thing in reverse. I suspect the patient survival rates between the two pilots is very different.
  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @03:12AM (#45309513)

    Job destruction through automation implies that it can be done cheaper per unit of production through automation than through using humans. The net effect of this has to be that final cost of a unit of production goes does. This ergo results in more resources available at a lower price reducing the barrier to entry to other tasks that would otherwise be rendered too high a cost.

    A person with $5 to spend has a greater purchasing power if everything is cheaper than if everything is more expensive. If you have a higher purchasing power you do not need as much in order to maintain the same standard of living.

    Just because automation may, or even will, reduce the number of jobs in an individual industry it enable more jobs in the wider economy through making more things possible. Computers are a huge example of this. Computer made many many people's jobs redundant but computers have created orders of magnitude more jobs than they have destroyed in industries we never even imagined when computers first arrived.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982