A semi-autonomous bulldozer hit an excavator: now we know why
An accident involving a semi-autonomous bulldozer and an excavator was at least partly caused by poor sight lines and a breakdown in communications, according to the New South Wales (NSW) Resources Regulator. The finding, announced 3 October, follows the Regulator’s investigation into the May 2019 incident — where the bulldozer hit the excavator, shunting it and trapping the driver at Wilpinjong coalmine. The driver was rescued and without injury, NSW Resources Regulator Chief Inspector of Mines Garvin Burns said.
“The incident was of particular interest as the trialling and use of autonomous and remote-controlled equipment is increasing in mines throughout NSW. As a result, an investigation into the cause was immediately launched to provide a better understanding of the contributing factors and to allow us to quickly pass on lessons learned to industry,” Burns said. While the investigation identified a number of contributing factors to the incident, Burns said the investigation and subsequent actions by the operator were more important.
They “identified a number of key engineering and technology measures that have since been implemented to prevent reoccurrence”, he said. “These include the installation of a proximity awareness and autonomous stop system on all machinery and portable units for staff working in the area, installation of an aerial camera and increased separation between machinery. Any mine operator using or considering the use of autonomous machinery should review the full investigation report to see if any of the lessons can be applied to their operations,” Burns said.
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