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ASI's booth at the SME 2014 Annual Meeting featured the Forecast® 3D laser and a miniature haul truck demo to show visitors how automated vehicles interact in a mine.

In late February, ASI joined 500+ exhibitors and more than 6500 attendees at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) annual meeting.

Members of ASI's mining team, as well as sales and marketing staff participated in the exhibit hall and technical sessions, including a session dedicated to the Bingham Canyon Mine cleanup efforts. Kennecott operators have been using ASI automated excavators since about June 2013 to remove debris from the most dangerous locations on the slide area.

Command & Control
Visitors to ASI's exhibit booth found a miniaturized display of a load/dump cycle that is being developed for mines internationally. The miniature dump trucks, controlled by Mobius, rolled around a small track to demonstrate how robotic mining equipment can perform complex tasks and interact with other automated vehicles.

"It's difficult to give people at an expo the immersive experience they need to see how our software works," said Dru Brown, ASI's Event Coordinator.

"We wanted to give people something a little more tangible; something that would help them draw the connection to what this system looks like and how it works in an authentic mining environment."

With the risk of falling debris, landslides, and other large equipment, safety remains a major issue for an industry that is considered one of the world's most dangerous.

To combat these challenges, every vehicle that ASI automates is equipped with several safety layers from sensors to software.

On November 1, 2013, Autonomous Solutions, Inc. celebrated their thirteenth year of business. Since November 2000, ASI has automated more than sixty different types of vehicles; deploy hundreds of robots worldwide; and provided solutions that improve productivity and safety in challenging spaces, including: military, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, and automotive.

As the year winds down, we have an opportunity to pause and reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future. This past year was full of exciting events, notable implementations, product releases, and industry awards.

This article will take you through some of the more prominent happenings during ASI's Year Thirteen.

Mar 2013—ASI adopts AGILE development methodology
To deliver the best possible product while being able to accommodate customer feedback, ASI teams adopt AGILE development methodologies.

Apr 2013—Guideline Receives Bronze Edison Award
On April 25th, the prestigious Edison Awards selected ASI's Guideline Robotic Convoy product as a 2013 Bronze winner. Guideline is a tethered, unmanned convoy system currently undergoing in-theater testing.

Ford Robotic Durability Program

Jun 2013—Ford Motor Company Announces Robotic Program
Ford Motor Company announced its robotic durability testing program designed to protect drivers from their most punishing test tracks. ASI's automotive team worked with Ford engineers for three years to supply the vehicle robotics for Ford's program.

Jul 2013—USPTO Issues Two New Trademarks
ASI adds to its store of intellectual property with two new trademarks for the Forecast 3D laser system and the Vantage obstacle detection and avoidance system.

Aug 2013—ASI Announces New Forge Robotic Platform at AUVSI
ASI unveils the new Forge robotic platform at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013 conference in Washington DC. The new product answer the need for an x-by-wire robotic platform usable across multiple industries.

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OEM Off Highway Nov/Dec IssueThe article "Driver Not Included" in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of OEM Off-Highway magazine features an interview with ASI's Mitch Torrie and Paul Lewis.

The following article includes excerpts from an interview between ASI founders Mitch Torrie and Paul Lewis and the OEM Off-Highway magazine.

The magazine article, entitled "Driver Not Included," was published in the November/December 2013 issue and highlights the history and benefits of vehicle automation.

"When we started ten years ago, the technology for GPS systems and IMUs was much more expensive—ten times as expensive as it is now," says Paul Lewis, co-founder and Director of Software Development at Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI). For the past thirteen years, ASI has provided vehicle robotics to customers in a range of industries including mining, military, farming, and automotive.

While vehicle automation remains an emerging technology in most of these industries, the price of technology and public acceptance continue to improve.

"We were working with early adopters creating proof of concept machines," continues Lewis. "Now that the market is more mature, the technology is cheaper and more accessible for higher volumes, and people are culturally willing to accept vehicles that drive themselves."

Recent events in the industry, like Google's purchase of Boston Dynamics, highlight the buzz about robotics as 'the next big thing.'

Even with more companies entering the space, ASI remains well positioned as an experienced leader with key product advantages, most notably, the Mobius™ command and control software.

"The way we designed Mobius was to allow the user to change a fair amount of how it looked, felt, and what information was being presented to them," explains Lewis. "We're working on some next generation simplifications to make the system even more powerful and easy to use."

"Instead of selecting a specific application for a particular vehicle for a certain location," added Mitch Torrie, co-founder and Director of Vehicle Automation at ASI, "the system will automatically suggest the most appropriate actions… While our early adopters were technically literate, now we're putting our systems on vehicles in countries where it may be difficult to find an operator with a driver's license, let alone high technical skills.

Discovery Channel Canada's science and technology news series, Daily Planet, aired the Bingham Canyon Mine story as part of their September 23, 2013 episode.

One of the largest landslides in mining history quickly became a showcase for autonomous mining technology. Shortly after the April 10th slide, administrators of the Bingham Canyon Mine (Kennecott/Rio Tinto) near Salt Lake City, Utah, began looking for innovative ways to clean up the debris, much of which is steep and unstable. With more than ten years of experience automating mining equipment, Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI) provided the technology for six remote control excavators to assist cleanup efforts.

The application of ASI's vehicle robotics caught the attention of media outlets, including the Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet, which highlights interesting technology applications around the world in short documentaries. The Daily Planet joined ASI reps at the Bingham Canyon Mine to see the effects of the slide and robotic mining equipment in action.

"The scope of the slide was immense," said Jared Pratt, VP of Business Development for ASI who was onsite with production crews. "It was hard to mentally frame due to the scale of both the mine and the equipment addressing it."

"The remote control solutions for the excavators were and are a critical component of the remediation," continued Pratt. "The technology allows for heavy machinery to operate in the slide area near the face of the pit without putting individuals in harm's way."

So far, robotic technology has been responsible for clearing more than 80,000 tons of material from the unstable areas near the top of the slide. Clearly, there's still a long way to go, but equipped with the latest technologies, Kennecott is pushing cleanup efforts forward while ensuring the safety of their employees.

International Resource Journal: October 2013 issueThe October 2013 issue of the International Resource Journal highlights the capabilities of ASI's mining vehicle technology in the article "Age of Autonomy."

"One of the greatest benefits of automation is the efficiency of a machine, and the way in which it operates," said Mitch Torrie, Director of Vehicle Automation at ASI to Juliet Langton, Editor of the International Resource Journal (IRJ). The IRJ approached Torrie in August about the impact of vehicle automation in the mining industry. ASI has provided robotic solutions to the mining industry for about ten years and has taken part in a range of technology advancements over the years. The following quotations are excerpts from Torrie's interview with the IRJ.

Productivity & Cost Improvements
"Often we get reports from customers that their manual drivers will speed down a hill, potentially damaging the vehicle frame, so that they can sit and eat their lunch or read the newspaper," said Torrie.

Automation technology is designed to operate mining equipment as closely to OEM specs and safe operating procedures for the environment as possible, making maintenance schedules much more predictable.

"Even if the operator sets a high speed on a road, for example," continued Torrie, "the software looks ahead and knows the center of gravity and the mass and everything else for the vehicle, and it will slow the vehicle down for a corner if it might roll at the speed that the operator set."

One of the greatest barriers to the acceptance of mining automation technology has been the high cost. However, as the technology becomes more refined, the prices continue to become more affordable.

8412. The number of work-related injuries reported in 2012 in the mining industry. While that number is down from previous years, clearly there is still room to improve safety in one of the most dangerous industries in the world.

"There's a lot of focus on mining safety," says Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions, Inc. "Mine workers are under constant threat of injury from falling objects, unstable terrain, and working with heavy machinery." Torrie, who will speak about safety at the RobotXWorld conference in late August, identifies safety as ASI's number one concern. "Vehicle automation is first and foremost a safety technology."

Each autonomy kit developed by ASI delivers four layers of safety.

At the basic level, all automated vehicles are equipped with emergency stop functionality. If a vehicle travels outside of a designated operation area, experiences a malfunction, or loses communications, the emergency stop system is initiated to halt vehicle operations until the issue can be resolved.

The on-board computer, called the vehicle control unit (VCU), serves as the brain of the automated system, relaying commands from the remote operator to the vehicle functions, monitors vehicle health indicators, and relaying data packets back to the operator.

The VCU represents the next level of safety as it actively runs more than 100 system error checks looking for errors that might cause safety issues.

While autonomous vehicles may accurately navigate by following GPS waypoints, they are still "blind" in the sense that they are unable to see potentially hazardous obstacles in their path such as animals, people, and other vehicles.

To solve this safety issue, ASI equips autonomous vehicles with obstacle detection and avoidance software and sensors that actively search for obstacles within the path of the vehicle and warn the VCU and operator of their presence. Depending on the installation, vehicles may react to obstacles with see-and-stop or see-and-avoid behavior.

The final layer of safety is ASI's command and control software, Mobius™. Operators use the Mobius path builder to determine a safety perimeter for safe autonomous operations.

If for any reason a vehicle travels outside of this perimeter, the emergency stop system halts autonomous operations until the vehicle is moved (manually or by teleoperation) back inside the safety perimeter. For systems that manage more than one vehicle, Mobius actively monitors the health indicators of all vehicles in the system and initiates proximity alerts that slow down vehicles if they are in danger of colliding.

35. The number of mining related deaths reported in 2012. That's 35 too many. With four layers of redundant safety features, ASI is setting the safety standard for autonomous vehicles that will help drive down injuries and fatalities across all industries. "Our goal is to supply our customers with solutions that not only help them improve productivity but also dramatically improve the safety of their work environment," said Torrie.

As the United States combat presence scales down in the Iraq and Afghanistan regions, so does US military spending on robotics, says Valerie Insinna, Staff Writer for the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). In her recent article Opportunities for Non-Military Robots Increase, Insinna focuses on how Robotics companies will soon find it necessary to look to other markets as defense resources dry up. Many companies are already looking to consumer products and agriculture.

"In the past, defense and security sales made up about 40 percent of iRobot's revenue," Insinna quoted Matthew Lloyd, spokesman of iRobot. "Because of decreased contracts with the military and a 28-percent increase in sales of its home robots such as the Roomba, sales of defense robots are now only 10 percent of the company's business."

Several years ago, Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI) found itself with a similar need to innovate. Previous to 2008, ASI relied primarily on military research grants and partnerships with Department of Defense prime contractors. Much of that business dried up as the recession hit commercial and government budgets heavily in 2008.

ASI's President and CEO, Mel Torrie, realized that something needed to happen.

"It was innovate or die at that point," said Torrie. "We recognized that we needed to make a fundamental change not only to where we were getting our business, but also to the kind of offering we provide to our customers." Starting in 2008, ASI expanded product offerings to markets in the private sector.

"Throughout the years, we have done projects in agriculture and mining, so we had a good foundation of understanding and experience to move us into those industries," said Torrie.

"We also recognized that we needed to innovate from being primarily a project-based company to being a product-based company. Some of that transition is still in progress, but we feel that it better positions us to provide what our customers need."

In 2011, ASI also added automotive proving grounds to its pillar markets. Torrie explained that catering to three out of four markets dominated by the private sector will insulate ASI from future downturns in the US military budget as well as downturns in any single industry.

"Long term," Torrie continued, "robotics is going to be critical to the military side of things, so we still have an emphasis there. We have several key product offerings that thrive in both domestic and international military environments. But we've found success in spreading our universal automation technologies into other markets.

"We feel that ASI is well positioned for the foreseeable future and ahead of many companies that are just now finding the need to innovate."

Read more about the future of military ground robotics in the NDIA article: Opportunities for Non-Military Robots Increase.


LOGAN, UTAH—October 21, 2008. Autonomous Solutions Inc. (ASI) officially entered the mining industry at the MINExpo conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Utah-based robotics company demonstrated the new robotic bulldozer and Guideline® Robotic Convoy System.

MINExpo® 2008, held every four years, is titled “The World’s Richest Deposit of Mining Technology, Services and Products.” With over 600,000 square feet of exhibit space it was the largest MINExpo ever. The newest products and services, as well as the latest technology were demonstrated to top mining professionals.

The Robotic Dozer System is an application of ASI’s Nav™ for CAT D10 dozers. It allows open-pit and surface mines to maximize productivity and improve safety of mining operations. It offers many advantages over a traditional manned system, such as: removing the operator from dangerous situations, creating a one-to-many environment; providing precise control of the vehicle and implements; and reducing vehicle down-time.

The multi-vehicle system is operated with Mobius™ command and control software which integrates with GPS and wireless communications solutions. Mobius allows both autonomous and teleoperation modes for tasks, including ripping and blade control.

Guideline works by attaching a Kevlar tether from the follower vehicle to any lead vehicle. The follower vehicle senses angle and length of the cable and dynamically plans a “path” to follow the leader's exact movements.

This arrangement eliminates the limitations of RF and GPS due to interference or blockage, works in all light and weather conditions, and works equally well in reverse. No modifications are required to the lead vehicle. The simple elegance of the solution means less complex equipment to maintain, simplified operator training, affordability, and the potential for significant manpower reductions for safety or cost reasons.

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About ASI

For nearly 14 years, ASI has been a world leader in unmanned ground vehicle systems. From their northern Utah headquarters, ASI serves clients in the mining, agriculture, automotive, military, and manufacturing industries with robotic solutions ranging from driver assistance to full, multi-vehicle autonomy. ASI's world-class engineering staff is dedicated to the ideals of innovation, safety, simplicity, and quality.