Rio Tinto’s fleet of autonomous haul trucks recently hit a significant milestone at the company’s operations in Australia by moving their one-billionth tonne of material.
Since commencing trial operations in 2008, haul trucks fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology have now moved more than one billion tonnes of both ore and waste material across five sites in the Pilbara including the newly commissioned Silvergrass mine.
The autonomous haul trucks are operated by a supervisory system and a central controller, rather than a driver. They use pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate haul roads and intersections and to know actual locations, speeds and directions of other vehicles at all times. Last year, Rio Tinto’s autonomous fleet accounted for about a quarter of the total material moved across the Pilbara mines.
On average, each autonomous truck was estimated to have operated about 700 hours more than conventional haul trucks during 2017 and around 15% lower load and haul unit costs. There have been zero injuries attributed to autonomous haul trucks since deployment, highlighting their safety advantages, the company said.
With more than 80 autonomous Komatsu trucks currently operating and plans in place to increase this to more than 140 by the end of 2019, the pace of automation across Rio Tinto’s iron ore business is accelerating.
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