Why experts say the Pacific Northwest is a ‘perfect laboratory’ for autonomous technology

Already, Idaho-based Hecla Mining is operating a 24-hour autonomous truck at a gold mine in Québec and reporting cost savings, increased payload, and decreased energy use. A Saskatchewan entrepreneur invented an autonomous combine that can harvest a line of crops with one-millimeter precision.

Agnew predicts autonomous innovations will soon change how extractive industries, like the Alberta tar sands, operate. “Guys are driving massive trucks and when the fog rolls in, it’s a scary scene,” he said. “If we’re able to get them out and driving the truck from a remote, padded, warm place – that’s a better job.”

Autonomous innovations in maritime shipping could also produce both cost and safety benefits by reducing needed crew and averting environmentally catastrophic accidents like the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, according to Agnew. “Captain Hazelwood going on the Bligh Reef because he missed a buoy — that won’t happen again,” he said.