At its iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Rio Tinto announced on October 2, that it has successfully completed the first fully autonomous rail journey.
The nearly 100-kilometer pilot run was completed without a driver on board, making it the first fully autonomous heavy haul train journey ever completed in Australia.
The journey was completed safely, being closely monitored in real-time by Rio Tinto teams and representatives of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, both on the ground and at the Operations Centre in Perth.
“This successful pilot run puts us firmly on track to meet our goal of operating the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long-distance rail network, which will unlock significant safety and productivity benefits for the business,” explained Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Chris Salisbury.
The company is working towards commission AutoHaul project in late 2018. The AutoHaul project is focused on automating the trains that are essential to transporting the iron ore to Rio Tinto's port facilities.
Trains started running in autonomous mode in the first quarter of 2017. Currently about 50% of pooled fleet rail kilometers are completed in autonomous mode (with drivers on-board) and 90% of pooled fleet production tonnes are AutoHaul enhanced.
Rio Tinto operates about 200 locomotives on more than 1,700 kilometers of track in the Pilbara, transporting ore from 16 mines to four port terminals.