Australian Mining Company Expands Autonomous Truck Fleet

February 13, 2018 at 11:51 AM

Mining and metals giant Rio Tinto Group plans to retrofit 60 ore-hauling trucks with autonomous driving technology to grow its self-driving fleet in western Australia to 140 vehicles by the end of 2019.

The rollout is slower than Rio Tinto originally planned. At one time, the company had aimed to have as many as 150 of the giant autonomous vehicles in operation by now.

Rio Tinto launched trial operations of self-driving haulers in Australia’s Pilbara mines in 2008. Since then, such trucks have moved more than one billion metric tons of ore and waste material across five mining sites, according to the company.

The autonomous operation allowed the trucks to be operated an average of 700 more hours last year than a conventional haul truck with a driver, Rio Tinto says. The technology also eliminated injuries and resulted in 15% lower operating costs.

The retrofits will be made on both Komatsu and Caterpillar trucks. Previously, Rio bought driverless trucks directly from Komatsu.

The trucks are equipped with object-detection sensors, control units and GPS mapping capabilities. Wireless networking keeps tabs on the location, speed and direction for all vehicles at all times to help avoid accidents.