3/17/2014

Mining Giant Adds More Self-Driving Super Trucks

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Minerals company Rio Tinto plans to expand its use of giant driverless mining trucks in Australia to at least 150 by the end of 2015 from about 39 at the beginning of 2014, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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Minerals company Rio Tinto plans to expand its use of giant driverless mining trucks in Australia to at least 150 by the end of 2015 from about 39 at the beginning of 2014, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The self-driving trucks are cheaper and safer to operate than those piloted by humans, which require a team of four drivers to keep up with the company's 24-hour work schedule, according to the company.

The big rigs, which are supplied by Japan's Komatsu Ltd., are tracked by satellite and use the company's "autonomous haulage" technology. Rio Tinto monitors trucks and other automated mining equipment from a command center in Perth, 800 miles away, but the company says its trucks "read" their environment including the presence of other vehicles to decide what to do.

The 2,000-hp trucks carry more than 1,100 gallons of fuel and can tote 320 tons of ore at a time. Rio Tinto began testing driverless trucks in Australia at the end of 2008, along with automated trains and drilling equipment.