Monday, 09 October 2017 09:39

Australia's first fully autonomous heavy-haul rail run completed

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Mining giant Rio Tinto has completed the first fully autonomous rail journey at its iron ore works in Western Australia's Pilbara region.

The pilot run, which was nearly 100 kilometres, was done without a driver on board, as part of the trials intended to get the company's AutoHaul project up and running by late 2018.

The journey was monitored in real-time by company personnel and representatives of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator.

The test, undertaken last week, was from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo.

Trains started running in autonomous mode in the first quarter of 2017 and right now about half of pooled fleet rail kilometres are completed in autonomous mode (with drivers on-board) 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 realised including reduced variability and increased speed across the network, helping to reduce average cycle times."

Rio Tinto runs about 200 locomotives on more than 1700 kilometres of track in the Pilbara, transporting ore from 16 mines to four port terminals.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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