Mining Contract: AutonoDES: A Discrete Event Simulation Platform for Safety Scrutiny of Autonomous Mining Systems

Contract # 75D30122C14757
Start Date 9/1/2022
Research Concept

The automation of mobile earth-moving equipment has accelerated in the last few years globally; however, this trend has not become attractive in the U.S. mining industry thus far—likely due to numerous insecurities related to operation of these machines. Operational complexities, human expertise, and safety concerns due to uncertainties in the human-technology interaction need to be investigated for this emerging technology to be accepted and integrated effectively.

This contract research develops a simulation software platform, AutonoDES, that can be used as a “what-if” scenario analysis tool for mixed-fleet (both human-operated and autonomous) mining operations. The platform will provide the tools and interfaces in order to examine the safety-related scenarios and explore the concerns of any resultant policy changes in the fleet management of mining operations. Although a few relatively complicated (academic-level) discrete event simulation platforms exist in the market for general applications, none of these tools can be used for safety analysis, in particular for the autonomous haulage systems (AHS) that are common in a mining operation. The need exists for a user-friendly tool for non-programmers in the mining industry to exclusively investigate AHS safety concerns. Although the tools and software developed under this contract can be applied to underground mining cases, this research and the case studies will be designed to apply directly to surface autonomous haulage systems.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is ongoing. For more information on this contract, send a request to

Discrete event simulation (DES) is a very practical, safe, and cost-effective tool for testing fleet type systems. The current application domains of DES are in manufacturing, healthcare, call center services, military fields, and logistics. In a DES model, the operation of the system is modelled as a sequence of events in time where each event occurs at a particular instant of time, with all simulations modelled as “what-if” scenarios. In a mine, knowing the mine layout, location of the equipment, and the history of travel times is enough to conduct a DES simulation. Scenarios can then be designed to predict the system performance against all these scenarios.

Under this contract research, software will be developed based on existing DES platforms, but adding new features specific to AHS in mines, including a direct connection to dispatch systems for haul data, a consideration of all potential collision hazard scenarios, the incorporation of human factors, and verification of existing guidelines for use of AHS until enough data can be collected to prove effectiveness.

The main objectives of the research are as follows.

  • Creation of a user-friendly software platform that helps mining companies in safely transitioning to autonomous systems and checking the effectiveness of their safety policies.
  • Testing and validation of the models based on a partner mine’s case-studies.
  • Examination of existing safety policies in autonomous operations and investigation of the improvement modifications in order to reduce accidents.

This contract research will involve partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). UNR encourages and supports efforts toward business development and product commercialization, including both product sales as well as a service-based model. As part of the service-based model, the UNR research team will be contracted to study the potential of autonomous systems in mining operations. The proposed software will be freely available for the public for installation. However, it is expected that the extended versions of the software will be programmed specifically to serve the specialized needs of AHS in the mining industry.

Page last reviewed: June 13, 2023
Page last updated: June 13, 2023