Skip to Content

Next Up in Driverless Vehicles: Autonomous Excavators

October 19, 2017

Robotic earth movers are starting to break ground.

A startup called Built Robotics, founded by an ex-Google engineer and currently backed by $15 million of venture capital, has announced that it’s currently building a robotic tractor that digs and moves earth. Wired explains that the vehicle uses special heavy-duty, vibration-proof lidar sensors and GPS to help it navigate construction yards. A stack of computers in a roof-mounted box allow it to make sense of what it sees, so that it can dig up a site according to a set of coordinates from building plans.

Built Robotics is not alone in blending autonomy and heavy equipment. Elsewhere, Cyngn—the company formerly known as Cyanogen, which used to make ultra-nerdy alternative Android operating systems for smartphones—is also rumored to be trying its hand at automating vehicles. According to Recode, the firm, which is still in stealth mode, may also be developing the technology required to make self-driving construction equipment.

And some mining companies are already rolling out driverless trucks in quarries. Those made by the Japanese firm Komatsu, for example, find their way around using precision GPS and look out for obstacles using radar and laser sensors.


Keep Reading

Most Popular

DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI.

“This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.

What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines

New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.

Human-plus-AI solutions mitigate security threats

With the right human oversight, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help keep business and customer data secure

Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation

From million-dollar slide shows to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, a bit of show business never hurt plain old business.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.