ConExpo 2020: Caterpillar eyes equipment autonomy

ConExpo 2020: Caterpillar eyes equipment autonomy

Equipment maker sees growing role for programmed and remote-controlled heavy equipment.

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March 19, 2020

Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc. is moving forward on equipment connectivity and autonomy, according to its CEO Jim Umpleby. He and two other executives provided an update on the equipment maker’s efforts in those areas at a press conference at ConExpo 2020 in Las Vegas in March.

Caterpillar has “some 1 million connected assets” in place globally collecting data, said Bob De Lange, the group president of services, distribution, and digital at the company.

Caterpillar debuted several new or recently introduced technologies at ConExpo, including Cat Productivity, which it calls a web-based productivity management tool. Also on display was an expanded remote-control Cat Command offering designed to allow an operator to control multiple pieces of equipment from a single station.

DeLange told ConExpo attendees Caterpillar has 30 years of autonomy experience, and the firm has long had programmed or remote controlled dump trucks on the job at mining sites. He said bringing that degree of autonomy to a construction or demolition site (or, presumably, to a scrap yard) will not be easy, but it is currently testing autonomous equipment in such applications at its proving grounds in Illinois and in other parts of the world.

Ramin Younessi, Caterpillar group president for construction industries, said he is seeing “strong interest” in autonomy from many of his customers in that segment, as they continue to find skilled laborers in short supply.

Other remote-control or autonomy related products or services being offered by Caterpillar include: Command for Compaction, automating the soil compaction process; and the recently released Cat Remote Services that includes Remote Flash and Remote Troubleshoot.

Other ConExpo displays focused on the Cat app for smartphones, VisionLink for fleet management and an augmented reality experience “to learn about getting a second life out of machines with Cat Certified Rebuild.” That program offers “like-new machines with a like-new warranty and a new serial number, all at a fraction of the cost of a comparable new machine,” marketed via Caterpillar’s existing dealer network.

The company also had plenty of heavy equipment on display at three different exhibit areas at the expo. That roster of new product offerings included five hydraulic excavators, two dozers, a center-pivot backhoe loader, a motor grader, a wheel loader and an articulated truck.

In addition to the products on display, Caterpillar’s largest exhibit area had live equipment demonstrations and hosted the Global Operator Challenge championship. Nine regional champions from an initial field of more than 10,000 competed in the final round of that event on Tuesday, March 10.