The Future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Caterpillar

April 16, 2024


At Caterpillar, we’ve been developing advanced systems internally for decades. More than thirty years ago, we ran the first two prototype Cat® 777C autonomous mining trucks at a Texas limestone quarry using advanced algorithms, showing autonomous operations could improve safety and productivity.

And we’ve led the industry in autonomous fleet solutions since.

AI at Caterpillar.
Like most manufacturers, Caterpillar’s advanced computer programs and cloud computing allow our engineers to complete work in a fraction of the time it used to take. But we don’t stop there. Given our technology leadership, it’s not surprising that Caterpillar is actively pursuing AI to improve business outcomes for Caterpillar and our customers. Caterpillar Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President Otto Breitschwerdt shares, “Incorporating AI into our product development process continues our tradition of harnessing technology and innovation as demonstrated by our extensive patent portfolio.”

driverless mining truck

Machine Learning and Beyond.

Chief Digital Officer and Cat Digital Senior Vice President Ogi Redzic explains, “AI is technology that can learn, adapt, and make decisions by processing and learning from data, simulating human cognitive functions like reasoning and problem-solving. AI includes several subfields such as machine learning, deep learning, and generative AI (GenAI) – which grabs the most attention.”

Machine learning can be defined as the ability of computers to learn from experience and make decisions or predictions based on the data alone. A good example of using machine learning at Caterpillar is the area of Condition Monitoring – a suite of technologies Cat dealers use to detect and identify issues and recommend service or maintenance based on data from the machine itself.

Generative AI.
GenAI is artificial intelligence capable of creating new content, text, images, or video. It’s a step forward in manufacturing, allowing computers to complete time-consuming and repetitious tasks. For instance, Caterpillar developers use GenAI to query massive amounts of proprietary information and get practical answers without doing a deep search or spending hours reading thousands of pages of material.

Beyond our own operations, Caterpillar uses digital technologies to develop customer solutions. For example, Caterpillar’s Condition Monitoring Advisors (CMAs) monitor the state of Cat-connected assets in the field by analyzing incoming data. In the past, our CMAs had to extract data from multiple systems, perform an analysis and make a customer recommendation. Using Gen AI, the CMAs are now presented with a concise report containing data that has been automatically prepared and summarized with a recommendation already created. The CMA can then review the report and approve or edit the recommendation. There’s still a human in the loop, but the time required to prepare data and create a recommendation is significantly reduced.

underground mine longwall

New Opportunities.
Caterpillar Chief Information Officer and IT Senior Vice President Jamie Engstrom sees a wealth of new opportunities as the company adopts AI tools.

“AI will revolutionize the way we interact with machines and design interfaces between systems. It’s fascinating and changing at a very rapid rate,” Jamie says. “We’ll continue to see the industry mature, and the accuracy of technologies like Large Language Models (LLMs) will improve.”

Jamie and her team are working hard to enable a safe environment where the business can innovate and thrive. They have developed an Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence and a GenAI community of practice where employees participate in AI use cases and stay abreast of the company’s latest GenAI news.

The Future.
At Caterpillar, we’re more excited than ever about the future. Our leaders are committed to investing in AI and other technologies to maintain our industry leadership, and we have some of the best and brightest minds working on products and solutions focused on digital innovation.

One thing is certain: we’re using AI and other technologies to transform customer experiences in ways we couldn’t have imagined a few short years ago. Together with our customers, we’re building a better, more sustainable world.