Remember self-driving cars?
Except for a few dramatic failures (Tesla anybody), you don’t hear a lot about them these days. But in fact, there has been huge progress in developing the underlying artificial intelligence (AI) technology for them.
One person who has been involved in AI research and development from almost the beginning, is Bibhrajit Halder. Starting in the early 2000s, Halder worked with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), then Caterpillar on its first autonomous mining trucks and eventually moved to Silicon Valley to work with Apple and others on self-driving vehicle projects.
SafeAIToday, Halder is the founder and CEO of SafeAI, a company that retrofits heavy equipment such as dump trucks, pickup trucks and skid steers with autonomous technology. Additionally, the company has partnered with Obayashi (one of Japan’s top five construction companies) on an autonomous construction site and is working with Goodyear to integrate tire intelligence into autonomous vehicles.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Halder and ask him just what happened to self-driving cars and what might that mean for the mining and construction industries.
As for self-driving cars, “That’s just hard,” says Halder. “The problem is massively challenging. Work is ongoing and there has been a huge amount of progress over the last ten years. But more has to be done. Companies like Waymo are getting close. And when they do get it, the floodgates will open. We just don’t know when that will be.”
On the other hand, heavy equipment, in particular mining, is way ahead in terms of adoption. “The mining industry has already moved more than five billion tons of material with autonomous trucks,” Halder says. Even more significant, he says, is the fact that most of those mining trucks are running on technology that is already outdated. And the new technology, developed to solve problems in automotive applications is just now beginning to make a difference in mining and heavy equipment autonomy.
For simplicity’s sake, Halder refers to the old and new technology as AI 1.0 and AI 2.0.
The new AI
The AI 1.0 that entered the mining truck market early in the last decade relied on GPS, LiDAR and CPUs on the machines. These did the job very well but were limited in how much they could do and how much information they could capture and process.
The big difference now with AI 2.0 is that engineers have Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) in addition to CPUs, says Halder. “GPUs offer a hundred times more computing power than before. That means we can do a lot more with our algorithms. GPU technology is more mature and able to handle many more use cases.”
GPUs were initially developed for the video game industry because in video games a lot of the pixels change very quickly, and CPUs are not adept at this kind of information processing. “GPUs are better at parallel processing and can do it at a significantly better scale, and that helps AI, because AI requires parallel processing,” Halder says.
Halder gives an example of a truck coming up on a berm as an example of how this works. With the older 1.0 systems if you wanted your machine’s perception system to identify a berm using LiDAR it would be difficult. To a LiDAR system a berm might as well be a building. All it sees is an object of a certain size and shape.
“Now we can take hundreds and hundreds of pictures of berms and feed it into this deep neural network, and it will recognize a berm and learn what it is,” says Halder. “And the more data you feed it, the better it works. This quality gets better and better over time, that’s a massive improvement.”
As the machine learns to distinguish between a berm, a building or a stockpile it can make better decisions on its own, Halder says. “Your engineers don’t have to change the algorithm every time the truck encounters a new situation. That’s the power of AI. The AI network will recognize anything that you feed it.”
The automotive industry is also using GPU’s but the sheer complexity of highways, vehicle sizes, road signs and pedestrian issues are still more than AI 2.0 systems can handle and guarantee 100 percent reliability and safety. But construction and mining sites, with their limited traffic and controlled environments are easily managed by GPUs and AI neural networks.
AI 2.0 is just beginning to make an impact in mining and a few big construction sites, but that’s going to change says Halder. “With every project we are gaining massive amounts of knowledge. And as we gain that knowledge, we will better know how to scale that down. It is a continuous learning process.”
Training and support
Another plus for the mining and construction industry is the fact that the companies involved in implementing AI 1.0 developed good processes for training workers and deploying the technology.
Construction supervisors already know how to plan jobs and orchestrate the work, says Halder. Only now, with autonomous machines and AI, instead of verbally telling operators what to do, they send the same instructions to the autonomous machines as a digital file.
“The transition from driving machines to managing machines remotely happens a lot quicker than you think,” says Halder. “Based on my experience, the operators and people on the sites picked up on it so quickly you would be amazed,” says Halder. “They actually love it. Their job has become much safer with them sitting in the office looking at a screen or out a window. And that’s the vision: nobody in the unsafe areas.”
Training on the mine sites is done with a staged approach, says Halder. “The tech provider will continuously train and support the mine operator on a daily, hands-on basis and then slowly pull back. The tech support, which is somebody we partner with, will stay on the site, sometimes for years,” he says.
The next big thing
“Autonomy is something every OEM is pursuing,” says Halder. “Everybody is trying to get there. Everybody knows the autonomous, connected site is the future. Everybody is either doing something internally with autonomy, or they are partnering with technology providers.”
But the winners in this race will not be the AI providers who just have the best technology.
“This isn’t a pure technology play,” says Halder. “If your technology isn’t good, you don’t even get a seat at the table. You will win on the people side of it. You have to understand the customer’s workflows. You have to make their life easier. Service, support, training and education, that’s what going to win. It requires patience and that’s hard work too. Anybody who isn’t in it for the long haul won’t win.”
We’re also on the cusp of a new generation of vehicle technology that will open even more possibilities, says Halder. “Autonomy will eventually come into a lot more than just self-driving cars,” he says. “Anything that moves or has a safety implication is a candidate for AI.”
Contractor of the Year Finalist: W.F. Delauter Grows from One Dozer to 135-Piece Fleet
Kirby Delauter’s father, Russ, jokingly refers to the firm he and his father, Willie, formed in 1955 as a “one-horse operation.” Change that from one horse to one dozer, which the father-son team used to perform residential and commercial grading.
Now, far from that one-dozer start, the company is run by third-generation Kirby Delauter and his wife, Tina Delauter. The $10 million to $12 million firm does a variety of work — including site development, demolition, utilities, bridges and stormwater management — in three states.
Kirby’s entering the firm wasn’t necessarily a done deal, however. After serving six years in the U.S. Army, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I didn’t think I was college material,” Kirby recalls. He joined the family firm and proved so adept he became president in 1994.
And after working for several years outside the company, Kirby and Tina’s son William has joined the firm and is on his way to becoming the 66-year-old company’s fourth generation. A licensed civil engineer, William has “the education to take this as far as he wants to take it,” Kirby says.
“After being on the design side, now I’m getting more of the construction side,” William says. But keep in mind he did grow up working in the family business before college, and Kirby says he “knows what it’s like getting dirty in the ditches.”
Like many in this industry, the Great Recession hit the company hard. “It’s something I’ve never seen before,” Kirby says. “It took us from around 65 employees down to 16.”
“You just worked through it because that’s all you could do,” he adds. “You learned a lot of things that you’ll never find in a book.”
“That showed me more about what he’s made of than anything because he handled it in a way that I couldn’t have,” says Russ.
The experience has prompted an emphasis on measured, steady growth. “We could be three times the size we are right now,” Kirby says, “but I want to grow the company responsibly.” He expects the business to increase revenues to $13 million to $15 million this fiscal year, which ends in March.
Equipment WorldPart of that responsible growth is keeping a sharp eye on equipment needs. “We run a little leaner now,” Kirby says. “If we don’t need something, I may sell it and then think about renting it.”
Kirby frequently uses RPOs and buys used if it’s a machine he expects to put less than 1,000 hours a year on. “Excavators, loaders and dozers are our frontline pieces, so I’m either going to buy them new or low-hour used,” Kirby says. The firm has around 135 major pieces of equipment.
In addition to the heavy machines, W.F. Delauter has seven compact track loaders. “They’re powerful and they get the job done,” Kirby says. “With a blade on them, you can sometimes use them as a default for a D4. It won’t push as much, but it gets around better. And we’ve had zero problems with them.”
Clients notice the appearance of W.F. Delauter machines on their jobsites. “His equipment is always in tip-top shape,” says Vinny Flook, owner of Vinny’s Towing, who has done several projects with the company.
The company has three full time mechanics, including one who specializes in engines. “We do most of our work in-house, such as reinstalling refurbished undercarriages,” Kirby says. A fuel/lube truck services the company’s jobs.
Learning that a local college had a Cat simulator but no instructor, Kirby raised his hand and taught equipment operation evenings and weekends this past semester. He took the students to one of his jobsites where they spent eight weeks operating equipment.
“All of the students passed the class,” Kirby says. He didn’t stop there: he helped them create resumes and gave them contacts. All found employment — at $22 to $24 an hour — within weeks of completing the course.
Tina joined Kirby in the office around eight years ago and handles business development, HR and manages the company’s 60-construction-dumpster roll-off division. The division developed out of W.F. Delauter’s need to haul construction debris off its own sites and now generates about $700,000 a year.
“We’re also looking at marketing recycled construction materials to other contractors,” Tina says.
Equipment WorldThe company has around 70 employees, including five utility crews, two grading crews and a concrete crew. “I’ve always felt that good people attract good people,” Kirby says.
“We feel that family comes first,” Tina says. “I think that gives them an incentive to stick with us. And once you feel like you’re part of the team, you’re locked in with the group. We always tell them there’s room to grow. You might be a laborer now, but if you can jump on the backhoe and learn, for example, there’s a lot of potential to grow.”
Tina and Kirby also keep an eye on local labor rates, Kirby says. “I ask myself, ‘Are we going to keep good people and do people believe in us enough to sustain that?’” he says.
“It’s really been an honor for us to continue the legacy that Russ and Willie built from the ground up,” Tina says.
You get a sense of both the legacy and the future of W.F. Delauter when you talk to its clients.
“They always stand behind their word,” says client Steve Oder with Cavalier Development. “I could do a handshake contract with them and be perfectly comfortable. There’s not many of those around anymore.”
“Concerns were quickly put to rest after seeing how conscientious, knowledgeable and skilled [their] employees were throughout the duration of the project,” says Gale Engles, bureau chief for the Carroll County, Maryland, Bureau of Resource Management.
“One thing that’s really impressed me, especially considering the size of his business, is how much he’s available and how responsive he is,” Flook says. “If it comes out his mouth, it’s golden.”
Toyota Boosts Power, Safety, Looks on 2022 Tundra
Toyota’s slow reveal of its 2022 Tundra has finally culminated in an impressive grand finale that clearly sets the full-size truck apart from previous iterations.
Aside from a bigger truck that’s more refined and includes more driver-assist technologies, the 2022 Tundra is more powerful.
Though fans may lament losing the long-running 5.7-liter V8, they may find solace in a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 that offers 389 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. A hybrid 3.5-liter i-FORCE MAX offers 437 horses and 583 pound-feet of torque. Both variants are bolted to a new 10-speed automatic. For those keeping score — and who doesn’t? — the outgoing 5.7 offers 381 horses and 401 pound-feet of torque.
More power and a new high-strength boxed, steel-ladder frame that the 2022 Tundra shares with the 2022 Land Cruiser offer a jump in max towing from 10,200 pounds on the 2021 model to 12,000 pounds and a max payload capacity of 1,940 pounds, an increase of 210 pounds.
Lackluster fuel economy in the dated 5.7, which comes in at 13 mpg city and 17 highway, will surely be bested by the more fuel-conscious V6s, but we’ll have to wait on final EPA numbers.
A new interior offers creature comforts for driver and passengers alike, including a 14-inch infotainment touchscreen, available panoramic roof, heated and ventilated front seats, rear sunshade, heated steering wheel.
The instrument panel can be optioned with conventional gauges or a 12.3-inch instrument panel display.
ToyotaA host of new tech features are found throughout Tundra as well, such as towing aids, off-road enhancements, an all-new multimedia system featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and over-the-air updates.
Two different four-door layouts are available, as well as various bed lengths, including a 5.5-foot bed, 6.5-foot bed and an 8.1-foot bed.
Toyota Tundra was the first full-size truck to feature automated emergency braking, and starting with the 2022 model, every Tundra comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5.
The Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS with PD) features multiple enhancements, including not only detecting the vehicle ahead but also a pedestrian in low light, bicyclist in daytime, an oncoming vehicle and a pedestrian at intersections when making a turn.
At intersections, the system is designed to detect an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn and provide audio/visual alerts and automatic braking in certain conditions. Additional PCS functions include emergency steering assist, which is designed to stabilize the driver’s emergency steering maneuvers within their lane while avoiding a pedestrian, bicyclist or vehicle.
ToyotaTundra will be equipped with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). Lane Departure Alert notifies the driver by sound if it senses the vehicle is leaving the lane without engaging a turn signal. When DRCC is set and engaged, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) provides a slight steering force to help center the vehicle in its lane using visible lane markers or a preceding vehicle.
Automatic High Beams detect preceding or oncoming vehicles and automatically switch between high-beam and low-beam headlights. Road Sign Assist (RSA) is designed to recognize certain road sign information using a forward-facing camera and display it on the multi-information display (MID).
Toyota’s Rear Seat Reminder comes standard on all 2022 Tundras. The feature can note whether a rear door was opened within 10 minutes of the vehicle being turned on, or at any time after the vehicle has been turned on, with a reminder message in the instrument cluster after the engine is turned off, accompanied by multi-tone chimes.
In addition to the TSS 2.5 system, the standard Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) helps detect and warn you of vehicles approaching or positioned in the adjacent lanes. Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) can offer added peace of mind by helping to detect vehicles approaching from either side while backing out and alerting you with a visual and audible warning. The available Parking Support Brake is designed to implement brake control when there’s a possibility of a collision with a stationary object, approaching vehicle or while parking.
Improved suspension and handling
The 2022 Toyota Tundra’s new multi-link rear suspension drops rear leaf springs for coil springs, which leads to improved ride comfort, stability, handling and increased towing capacity.
The front of the truck gets a new double wishbone suspension, which offers a kingpin offset angle reduction to improve straight-line stability and high-speed driving.
The caster trail gets a 1-inch boost for added stability. To improve cornering, roll steer has been reduced by 25% compared to the benchmarks, and the roll height center has been elevated (152mm compared to 104mm, or roughly 6 inches compared to 4 inches) to reduce body roll, especially when cornering.
The 2022 Tundra gets twin-tube shocks at the front and rear of each truck. The shock absorbers feature triple-oil seals and extended dust covers for added protection and durability. New aluminum forged knuckles are used to cut weight. TRD Off-Road packages offer monotube Bilstein shocks.
TRD Pro grades get 2.5-inch diameter Fox internal bypass shocks that provide a 1.1-inch lift up front. The aluminum-bodied front and rear shocks feature piggyback reservoirs to house additional oil for improved off-road performance. The shocks use a new polytetrafluorethylene-infused (PTFE) Fox shock fluid to improve on-road comfort. This fluid includes microscopic particles infused with the oil to reduce friction.
The all-new Tundra will go on sale in December.
Chevy’s First Silverado ZR2 Catches Air – and Attention – in Video
So it doesn’t have enough dinosaur DNA to dominate the Ram TRX or Ford Raptor. Nonetheless, Chevy’s first ever Silverado ZR2 is taking flight with more power and suspension at the wheels.
In a video on Chevy’s website, the 2022 Silverado ZR2 is shown going airborne on an off-road course. While it’s hard to say exactly how much air the front tires get — it may around a foot or so — it’s still air, and as far as we know, it marks the first time Chevy has shown one of its half-tons taking on a jump. (To watch the video, scroll to the end of this story.)
While videos in the past have highlighted towing and payload capacities and bed strength, a new focus on truck jumping has emerged as yet another and more dramatic way to show off a truck’s power and muscle. And let’s face it…it just looks like fun.
And all that fun requires some power. The Silverado ZR’s 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 delivers 460 pound-feet of torque through a 10-speed transmission. While that’s Chevy’s most powerful Silverado yet, it’s still below the 2021 Raptor, which delivers 450-horsepower and 510 pound-feet torque through a 3.5.-liter V6 mated to a 10-speed transmission. And it’s far below the 2021 Ram TRX, with its soul-stirring 702 horsepower supercharged V8 that churns out 650 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed ZF automatic.
But I’m not so sure Chevy’s all that bothered about being in third place. While we’ll have to wait until the price is revealed, I’m betting that Chevy will be offering a more affordable, high-performance half-ton that could draw some folks away from the Raptor and TRX. And once it’s in the aftermarket, someone’s going to bolt on a supercharger to help even the score. Look for the 2022 Silverado ZR2 at dealers this spring.
2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 highlights
· Standard 6.2L V-8 engine, delivering 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
· Silverado-first application of Multimatic 40mm DSSV spool-valve dampers, which feature three separate spool valves to control damping and three connected chambers for fluid flow.
· Uniquely tuned springs that, with the Multimatic dampers, increase maximum front and rear suspension travel, compared to the Silverado Trail Boss.
· Front and rear e-lockers.
· Specific off-road chassis and suspension calibrations, including Terrain Mode, which allows one-pedal rock crawling.
· 18-inch wheels with LT275/70R18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory M/T tires.
· Unique skid plate package.
· New high-approach steel front bumper designed for off-road strength, durability and clearance that enables an improved 31.8-degree approach angle compared to other Silverado off-road models.
· Max payload of 1,440 pounds.
· Max towing 8,900 pounds.
Air-catching video and more photos
Check out this video below of the 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 catching air:
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