Hitachi CM invests in new autonomy tech

By Mike Hayes29 March 2021

Breakthrough LiDAR device could take company’s mining and quarry equipment to level 4 autonomy

LiDAR technology from Baraja could prove a breakthrough for autonomous construction equipment

Hitachi Construction Machinery (Hitachi CM) has announced it is investing in the Australian technology startup Baraja, which could aid the autonomous operation of its ultra-large hydraulic excavators and mining dump trucks.

Baraja has developed a new type of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology called Spectrum-Scan, which can measure objects at ranges of over 250m and with a 360-degree field of view.

The technology connects a laser to prism-like sensors via fibre optic cable. When light reaches the optics, it is naturally deflected in different directions, allowing it to measure with great accuracy and in high resolution the position of surrounding objects.

Apart form its accuracy, the technology is extremely durable as it uses no rotating lasers and has very few moving parts, making it particularly suited to use on board rugged mining and quarry machinery.

According to Baraja, the device is also tolerant to heat and shock that can upset the instrumentation on traditional LiDAR devices.

After lengthy testing of the device in real-world environments, Hitachi CM says the technology has the potential to take its equipment to level 4 (known as hands-off) autonomy.

Hitachi Construction Machinery chief technology officer Hideshi Fukumoto said, “Spectrum-Scan lidar is a must-have technology providing better autonomous sensing solutions for mining customers who demand increasingly higher safety and production efficiency. We are delighted to be working with Baraja, a company with leading-edge technology in this field.”

He added, “More than just an investment relationship, we expect that this relationship will lead to technological improvements and accelerated commercialization for both parties in areas such as terrain measurement and obstacle detection. Through this investment, Hitachi Construction Machinery will accelerate the improvement of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) and the practical application of remote and autonomous operation of ultra-large hydraulic excavators, as well as expand its application to the civil engineering and construction fields. We will also strengthen our open innovation initiatives in the digital field, such as this one.”

Hitachi CM was one of the main investors in a funding round that raised €26 million to accelerate the development of the new technology.

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