Deploying the Fully Autonomous Mine
In this episode, we are joined by Carl Brackpool, research associate at the Colorado School of Mines, to discuss the intersection of mining with AVs.
Wondering how you can deploy AV solutions? In this video, Jordan Stern, details the exact path companies can take to start their AV journey today.
Luke Renner: This is Advanced Autonomy. I'm Luke Renner. My guest today is Jordan Stern. He's the Senior Business Manager at Cyngn where he is primarily focused on helping industrial organizations deploy autonomy solutions in their own ODDs today.
Although the autonomous vehicle sector is a few years away from deploying full autonomy across all of transportation, AV tech is robust even today, that industrial organizations can drive greater speed, efficiency, and profitability by making investments right now.
The problem, of course, is how the hell to do that.
So in this conversation, we are going to dive into the state of industrial AV capabilities and give you some clear steps to take to determine where and how your organization might be able to dip the toe in the next wave of vehicle intelligence and autonomy.
Hey Jordan, welcome to the show.
Jordan Stern: Hey, Luke. Thanks for having me. I’m excited.
Luke Renner: Okay, so I thought to get us started, maybe you could give us an overview of the autonomous vehicle sector more broadly. How far along are we, how far do we have to go?
Jordan Stern: Sure. I mean, it's a really exciting time. I know what most people talk about when you think about autonomous vehicles are the cars that you and I will be riding around in on the street.
From that standpoint, there's a lot of fantastic technology innovation that's happening today, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. At Cyngn on my end, I do a lot of work really focusing on how we bring that technology to industrial and commercial use cases. And what's great about that is, you know, the pipes of that technology are the same. The infrastructure, at least on the software side is very similar, but the applications allow for value creation a lot faster.
And so when you talk about how far along are we in the sense of when can we start deploying these types of solutions and you think about it in the industrial landscape, you know, it's, we're pretty close and, you know, we're approaching the time where you can start deploying and generating real efficiency gains and value for companies in the next year, two, three years. And we really look at that five-year time horizon. There's really a lot that can be done. And the technology is ready for deployment.
Luke Renner: You know, I think what's true about this space is that organizations are really focused on that five-year horizon, exactly like you said. Waymo, for example, spent three and a half billion dollars on R&D and they're sort of proceeding with the expectation that once they completely solve full autonomy, there'll be the leaders, right? USB predicts that this is going to be a $2.8 trillion industry here in a few years.
So companies today might be looking at that and getting the sense that it's really difficult to locate where we are in the space, what's possible today, and what they might be able to do now. So how should the industrial organizations be thinking about autonomy in that context?
Jordan Stern: What I usually talk to customers about when they think about this problem is yes, it's great to have that end goal where we talk about autonomous vehicles buzzing around doing everything by themselves and fully automated facilities but let's focus on making sure you get to that goal and you're a successful player in the space when you achieve it. We want to make sure that you're there in five, six, seven years, being a leader in this space, and can operate in the new industrial world that we live in.
And so when I work with them, we start to think about how do I identify value creation in the short term?
There's a lot of applications of this technology that are deployable today. There are tasks, problems and projects that can be done onsite with iterations of this technology in the next year or two years.
So, when I think about how I talk to customers and how we work together, it really is about sitting down and saying, well let’s not thinking about this as a piece where we're putting in a lot of investment and work to then see an ROI in six, seven years. Let's think about this as, how do we put in that work and make sure we're generating ROI now, as we build on that pathway to that magnificent opportunity that's presented by this technology as the industry goes through its digital change?
Luke Renner: Yeah, absolutely. So let's talk about some of those benefits that companies can see now.
Jordan Stern: Sure. So I think about this problem in two ways, and you know, one of the ways that I talked about a little bit earlier is how do you generate value now? And the other is how do you make sure the problems that you're solving today are building you towards the future, to make sure that you're really understanding how this technology can be deployed.
And so there are benefits on both sides of that. So when you look at potential applications of autonomy or automation in your business, in the short term, really, you have to put them in the framework of how is this advancing me down this journey?
Some of the examples of ways that that can be done are with things that you already think about. So if you think about the vehicles that you might have deployed in your facility today and their telemetry and the information that you get from them and the data that you collect on their maintenance and how they're performing and their charging state, all of these things are integral to autonomous systems operating correctly.
And if you're able to deploy solutions quickly, you can get that information and data and leverage it in new ways within your business. That goes for predictive maintenance, that goes for utilization of those vehicles, making sure that's maximized.
Another way to think about this is how it actually affects the problems that you're trying to solve in your business right now.
And so if you're thinking about autonomy from a manufacturing standpoint, throughput efficiency and transferring materials from one place to another, and how that affects the outcomes coming out of your business — or in a distribution center, how you're thinking about how you get boxes off shelves to trucks as fast as possible so they're out and getting delivered to the customers — those are all things that autonomy and in the applications that are possible today can help solve and can improve.
Another big thing we like to talk about outside of maybe that indoor landscape is applications in more of an industrial setting outdoors. So if you think about mining or construction, a big concern there is safety. A big thing to think about for the application of autonomy here is how can we make sure that we make the environment that you're operating in and your customers and your employees are operating in as safe as possible.
So to the extent that autonomy can help you navigate dangerous situations that your employees encounter every day, or simply make sure that they feel more safe and comfortable in doing their job, that can generate returns for your business in the short term and the long term, when you think about insurance costs and just general happiness and safety of your workers.
Luke Renner: Got it. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. One of the questions people may have who aren't really working in this space every single day is the differences between what can happen now versus what we expect to be able to offer in five years.
Now, you touched on some of the things that autonomy can offer today. So maybe you can just kind of bookend that by describing what the space and what the experience of industrial autonomy will look like in five years, once the sector has really come of age?
Jordan Stern: I could postulate about what the world will look like in five years and I think, there are some things that we know will happen. There will be increases in automation and autonomy in the material handling space and other industrial use cases — and in outdoor activities, if you think about mining and construction — but what's really possible in the next five years is going to be driven by the customers that I work with every day. They are the experts in their business, and they are the experts in understanding where real opportunities can be created. And the benefit of working on autonomous solutions now is that the end customer gets to give that input.
As a technology provider and as companies grow in the space where they're developing this very complex software, the more that they speak with these end customers and get feedback on what the problems they have that need to be solved today, tomorrow, in the future, the better the products are going to be for those companies.
Luke Renner: Let's say that there's somebody listening to this podcast. They are totally bought in on the idea that they need to start exploring autonomous use cases and autonomous vehicle deployments for their space today. The question becomes where to begin.
Jordan Stern: I really focus on two things. The first is where do you have problems in your business today that are associated with errors that could be improved?
Luke Renner: OK.
Jordan Stern: You know a way to think about that a little bit deeper is, you know, in our context at Cyngn, we’re making vehicles that run by themselves, And what we notice at a lot of industrial use cases is there's already a lot of automation solutions that have been deployed but they have vehicles running around everywhere. Before the last couple of years, there wasn't a solution out there to really automate that or make that autonomous, and now there is. So look at the opportunities where there are errors in those spaces in your business that have to do with those vehicles where you haven't been able to deploy an autonomous solution before or increase efficiency, and really focus on those first because that’s the low-hanging fruit. That’s where you can generate value right away.
The exciting part is that there's also another side to this and this is where you really get interesting ideas, and where it really helps to talk with the technology providers in the space on how to solve new problems. That is, taking a look at your business and saying, what actually couldn't be done before? So whether there is an application of an autonomous vehicle that was too unsafe with a human driver before but now you can take advantage of it.
The simple thing to do first is to sit down and say, hey, this is what we already have issues with and these are the problems that can be solved very quickly. But also it's really valuable and a lot of fun to sit down and say what couldn't we do before? What is this opening up for us, and how can we work with technology companies providing these solutions to make sure we can accomplish those goals as well?
Luke Renner: All right so those are some great places where people can identify opportunities for autonomy so, I guess, my next question is when would be a good time to bring in autonomous vehicle experts to begin this journey?
Jordan Stern: You know, if you're already thinking about replacing your fleet, if you have a fleet of vehicles on-site and you're saying, “Hey, it's time for us to replace these vehicles,” that's a great time to sit down and say, “Hey, maybe we should think about an autonomous solution for our next deployment.”
Another way that you can think about investments and other pieces of your business is if you're saying, “We really want to increase safety and we're about to invest a lot of money in our operations and our protocols so that we can make our facility a safer place to work.” And that has downstream effects for your insurance rates and also employee safety and just employee morale. If you're going to invest there, this is a great place and a great time to really deploy autonomous technology as well.
So when leaders of businesses sit down and they think about putting in money to their business and what the ROI there is and how they make sure that their NPV is going to be right for this investment, over the time of its deployment. Making sure that you're maximizing the ROI is going to be of utmost importance to them. Deploying autonomous technology at those times is a way to maximize your ROI and investment.
Luke Renner: I think one of the differences between autonomy today and where autonomy will be in five years is that there is still an integration piece. You know, most organizations can expect that they'll have to work with engineers to get the autonomous system, whatever that may look like, up and running in their domain. So what can you tell us about that process? How does Cyngn actually bring autonomy to these spaces?
Jordan Stern: You know, we come and we map the environment that you want to deploy in. We make sure we get the data collected to be successful, and then we go and launch first iterations.
What's unique about what we're able to do is we don't require you to make this large, upfront capital investment through the purchase of a vehicle or restructuring your facility. We can come and improve that business case for you by retrofitting the vehicles you don't own today. It's great if you're going to invest in the newest technology and new vehicles anyway.
We can work with those vehicles as well. We have relationships with many OEMs and in the industrial landscape and have an understanding of how their vehicles work. But if you really just want to get this deployed, understand how it works in your business, and get that information gathering, that's a possibility as well.
We know that a big part of the value of these vehicles is the underlying business case. It's — are you really going to improve my efficiency and throughput from zero to ten percent? Am I really going to see the gains in safety that you're talking about that reduces my insurance premiums significantly so that my operating costs come down?
We understand that with a technology like this, seeing is believing and so by deploying technologies in a way that allows the end customer to see the business case in action and then scale that deployment afterward, those are things that Cyngn’s able to do because of how we’ve designed our software platform and how we've built this out to lay the pipes to have all of the possibilities that autonomy can provide. We’re also able to narrow it down to what you need today and then work with you to scale up to that five-, six-, seven-year goal that everybody talks about where your business is humming and as efficient as possible.
Luke Renner: So let's talk about the timeline. If someone wanted to get started with autonomous vehicles today, how long would it take them to bring it to their environment?
Jordan Stern: We're talking on the manner of months for initial deployments and months to single years for really seeing this technology operating in your facility in a way that's what people are looking for opportunity.
Regardless of where your business is and what problem you're trying to solve, we can come in and work with you to make sure you're getting the solution you need.
Luke Renner: Yeah, so one of the themes of this episode really is that this stuff is available today, we can move forward with it today, and companies should start thinking about it today. So in that spirit, what are some success stories that you can share about companies that have already gone through this process with Cyngn?
Jordan Stern: Yeah, one story that I love to talk about when I get this question is our experience with Loblaw, up in Canada. It’s a great story to tell because it shows the willingness of companies in the space to really be at the cutting edge and that's what Loblaw was trying to do. They really wanted to make sure that they were investigating and experiencing what cutting-edge technology in the autonomy space really could do.
That's something that we're always challenging our potential customers to do but it's also a great example of how Cyngn develops its strategy for approaching these types of businesses.
So what we did with Loblaw was they have a large corporate campus, and they have corporate buses that would shuttle passengers around their campus. So, we made those people movers, those buses autonomous. We were able to move those people around the corporate campus in a way that was a fun experience for them but it was also a demonstration for Loblaw that the technology could be deployed today. Moving people around in an open road in a bus setting is a more complex problem than trying to simply do horizontal material handling in a manufacturing center.
Luke Renner: Well, I’ve seen the videos, and the parking lot was, like, covered in snow. It was a really treacherous environment, for sure.
Jordan Stern: Exactly. The Loblaw deployment is a great example of saying, even if your task is more complex, there’s a pathway to success and autonomy. And even if you are starting with a more simple task or in an environment that’s not as complex, the technology itself is capable of doing so much more.
And that's why the Loblaw example, when I talk about it, is a great way to show companies that you know you don't have to start in this complex space, you don't have to do this but, look, the technology can do a very complex thing. It can manage weather patterns changing. It can manage the ground being wet, snow being piled up everywhere, we’re people, cars're moving around in parking lots. Those are complex environments. If the technology can be successful in that setting it can 100% be successful in a simpler one.
Luke Renner: So for anyone listening, if they're interested in beginning their autonomy journey, what should they do?
Jordan Stern: Yeah, I mean, first and foremost start thinking about those questions that I was talking about before. Look at your business, see where that opportunity exists, and where you think you can capitalize, and start generating ROI now for your autonomous vehicle investment.
Once you have a grasp of what you're thinking about, reach out to us here at Cyngn. We're always willing to talk to new customers and really understand the intricacies of their business so that we can help them on this journey. The best way to do that is just to hit us up on our website. You can go to cyngn.com/services, send us a note, and we'll reach out really quickly and make sure that we get connected.
Luke Renner: Cool, well that sounds awesome. All right, Jordan. I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on the show.
Jordan Stern: Thanks, Luke. Thanks for having me.
In this episode, we are joined by Carl Brackpool, research associate at the Colorado School of Mines, to discuss the intersection of mining with AVs.
Jordan Stern, Senior Business Manager at Cyngn, shows us how operators can command, control, and monitor their autonomous vehicle deployments.
In this conversation, we discuss AVs in mining, exploring the unique challenges, possibilities, and distinct technology development in this space.