Rio Tinto completes first fully autonomous rail journey
Rio Tinto reports it has successfully completed the first fully autonomous rail journey at its iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The nearly 100 km (62 mi) pilot run was completed without a driver onboard, making it the first fully autonomous heavy haul train journey completed in Australia, according to the company.
Rio Tinto says the journey was completed safely and was closely monitored in real time by its teams and representatives of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, both on the ground and at the Operations Centre in Perth.
The successful pilot run from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo is a step toward full commissioning of AutoHaul in 2018, once all relevant safety and acceptance criteria have been met and regulatory approvals obtained. The AutoHaul project is focused on automating the trains that are essential to transporting the iron ore to our 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 onboard) and 90% of pooled fleet production tonnes are AutoHaul enhanced.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Chris Salisbury said, “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. Gains from AutoHaul are already being realized, including reduced variability and increased speed across the network, helping to reduce average cycle times.”