Click to viewSo you already know about autonomous aerial vehicles being used in combat and surveillance — they're little planes that look almost like toys. Not so with the next generation of autonomous vehicles. A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon have just won a contract to create a robotic system that would make this badass 797B Caterpillar mining vehicle into an autonomous hulk with no driver on board. This is clearly one of Skynet's minions in the making. The 797B weighs 1,375,000 pounds, which means it can pulverize you and your whole gang of ninjas with no effort at all. This gives you a sense of the scale, with a human about half the size of one of its tyres:

Here is the Cat 3524B engine, below, which powers our mega-robot.

And here is a schematic showing how the already-computer-operated controls function. Presumably, the Carnegie Mellon team will create a way to control these computers wirelessly so that a remote operator can push the start button. If you want to see more, you can download a PDF with tons of information about the 797B from Caterpillar.


Generally, the 797B is used in mining operations purely as a hauler. It can haul 380 tons of rock at up to 42 mph. Imagine what would happen if the 797B got pissed that you weren't respecting its robot rights — that's 380 tons of rock moving toward your face at a pretty high velocity. So mind your manners, and always say please and thank you when dealing with the autonomous 797B, which will be hitting the market in 2010.

Images via Caterpillar. You Call That a UGV? This is a UGV [via Ares]