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Posted September 25th 2006 8:44PM

Heavy machinery maker Caterpillar Inc. is investing record amounts of its non-finance revenue into R&D in hope that within a few years the company's earthmovers will be able to operate without drivers, spinning around each other on worksites like dancers in a robotic ballet choreographed by onboard computers and satellite-based navigation systems.

Facing pressure from foreign competitors like Japan's Komatsu Ltd., CAT has been forced to reinvent itself through aggressive R&D. The investment has paid off and brought the company to No. 1 or No. 2 in almost every market it serves. In order to keep their lead CAT is investing more than ever into developing remote controlled heavy-machinery and hopes to have its earthmovers fully autonomous within the next 15 years.

Apart from simply racing to create the most high-tech tractors on earth, CAT is also responding to pressures caused by labor shortages resulting from the retirement of baby boomers and the fact that most of the easy mines have already been found and exploited. Leaving hard to mine locations like Siberia, where people would rather be sitting indoors, somewhere warm, remote-controlling the machines instead of riding them in the cold.

Source - Reuters

Posted September 26th 2006 7:39PM

Joe reads company newsletter. "Ahh damn, looks like its back to diggin' ditches. No Christmas this year...sorry kids."
We're Number One!
Posted September 27th 2006 12:31PM

It's only a matter of time before they make a robot capable digging ditches too, and doing everything else the average "Joe" is qualified for. No problem though, everyone can just get reemployed as scientists or programmers - wait, that's not going to work either, international standardized tests rank American 12th graders in the zero percentile in science and in the tenth percent in math. But never mind, the same tests show that they rank first in the students' assessment of their own performance - making Americans number one on the feel-good scale.
Posted September 27th 2006 9:13PM

It's scary to hear Caterpillar actually say, "Automation is our long-term dream." Reading about robots in "I, Robot" as I did 10 years ago, or thinking about robots with Manna, it's still surprising to hear a modern day company actually say that autonomous robots (particularly these robots which have always been manned) are their dream and goal. We live in very exciting times.

2015 is going to rock our world. I do think there is an acceleration in the progress curve. And I think it is the result of people making the future they can forsee. Someone predicts X in 10 years and some smart people are inspired by X and actualy set out to make it. It's incredible. I love reading tech news! It basically gets better everyday, and the good news gets more and more frequent. Good time to start a robot website! :)
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