Telematics, autonomous control high on Komatsu’s tech agenda

  • 05-Aug-2013 09:31 EDT
Mike Ueno at 2012 COMVEC.jpg

Mitsuru (Mike) Ueno, Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Komatsu America Corp., speaks at last year’s SAE Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress.

Komatsu is providing the executive leadership for the SAE 2013 Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress (ComVEC) taking place in Rosemont, IL, from Oct. 1-3. In this role, company executives get to help shape the event’s theme as well as the technology-focused topics to be discussed in the four executive panels: Designing Tomorrow’s On/Off-Road Tractors, Savvy Telematics, Simulation and Modeling, and Blue Ribbon panels.

One of those influencers is event co-chair Mitsuru (Mike) Ueno, Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Komatsu America Corp. Responsible for R&D activity under the Komatsu America operation, which is “the key technological center for mining trucks worldwide,” Ueno says that a major portion of his role is overseeing the development of electric dump trucks for mining application.

ComVEC’s other co-chair, Erik Wilde, Vice President and General Manager, Mining Division, Komatsu America Corp., is responsible for all mining-related business in North America as well as the company’s Electrical Dump Truck business internationally.

“In the current state of flux in the global economy, our customers (miners) are facing significant production and pricing pressures,” Wilde explained. “Our challenge is to help support them in meeting their targets. We are achieving this through integration of technology and new innovations into our existing and newly introduced products. This innovation is not only occurring on the product or chassis side, but we are expanding and leveraging our use of ‘big data’ into optimization of fleets.”

Ueno and Wilde recently took time away from their development and business activities to answer a few questions from SOHE Associate Editor Ryan Gehm about this year’s ComVEC and some cross-industry technology trends.

With Komatsu providing executive leadership, how will this year’s ComVEC be different from years past?

Ueno: This year’s ComVEC has a special feature for the most leading-edge topics such as technology for natural gas, telematics, and simulation and modeling for vehicle development. From the various aspects of industries including construction and mining, these topics will be discussed by the representatives, and not only that, the latest interesting subjects will be shared in the panel discussion. In addition, as one of the timely topics, ‘What does the future hold for both off-highway and on-highway vehicles?’ will be discussed. From the angle of government, customers, and providers, the future vision and the challenges also will be shared. I can say this year these topics [will involve] the ‘latest and greatest’ information sharing among the industries.

Wilde: I think that we will infuse our heavy off-highway perspective into the conference, and this can be seen in some of the panel topics. However, there is so much crossover in the challenges faced on- and off-road, this might be seamless to the delegates attending.

What value do you see ComVEC providing mobility engineers and the commercial vehicle industries?

Ueno: I think the most important value is to be able to share the technological aspects from the various industries’ leaders. It is a fact that more and more of the technologies used in on- and off-highway equipment are becoming common [with] no boundaries. It will be a huge benefit to know the current cutting-edge technology from the different angles, and there will not be such an opportunity equal to this SAE ComVEC to listen and exchange the information. In addition, not only from the final-products perspective, but many component companies that support those technologies will participate. [This event] will be the most efficient way to deepen the relations with those companies as well.

Wilde: It is a great forum to share ideas, knowledge, and the upcoming trends. It challenges the attendees to think outside of their everyday constraints and see where our collective industries can go. The papers that introduce today’s cutting-edge advances in technology and innovation are setting the foundation for tomorrow’s products.

For young engineers in particular, what kind of advice would you offer them to successfully make the transition from school to industry, or to advance in their careers?

Wilde: I think the keys for their success are to stay positive and not get frustrated with the challenges they face in their careers. They might have been trained on the latest cutting-edge technology, but they can also learn from their new company’s experiences and their peers ‘know-how.’ They should also be open to try new roles and experiences and not limit themselves to their field of expertise. This will result in increased learning and more future career opportunities.

Ueno: This event will be a tremendously effective and efficient opportunity [for students and young engineers] to have direct relationships with the leaders from each industry. I really encourage students to join in ComVEC and have [this interaction]. I trust any information and any conversation or discussion will definitely help students understand how exciting the technological challenges are [that are] now erupting in each industry.

What are some of the mutual challenges facing both the on- and off-highway industries?

Ueno: I feel that for both on- and off-highway industries we are now facing an important situation [regarding] technology. Within five years, not just the emissions technologies, but technologies related to reduction of fuel consumption, utilization of telematics, various safety features, electric energy, and autonomous [vehicles] will be realized as the matter of course. Any engineer related with on- and off-highway needs to put the technology antenna higher to catch the ‘technology change,’ and it will be very important to utilize chances such as SAE ComVEC to be able to catch those changes.

Wilde: ComVEC provides an opportunity for cross-industry discussion and an open forum that peers and competitors alike can meet to discuss the big picture and future needs, visions, and how we can get there.

What technology trends do you see most shaping the industry in the next 5-10 years?

Wilde: The use of ‘big data’ is going to change product life cycles. This data is going to be used to drive new developments, improve products, extend the life of our current products, as well as the ability to speed up the introduction of products into the market. To drive this big data we are leveraging our telematics platform, and as new technology becomes available, integrating it to reap the benefits.

Ueno: Within five to 10 years, definitely the IT technology will be applied and utilized within actual operations of construction and mining. Komatsu sees the significant importance in technology areas such as telematics, automatic control, and autonomous. With technological harmonization [in these areas], we hope a complete new equipment concept may emerge.

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