Fortescue drives Chichester Hub autonomous light vehicles forward

An autonomous Ford Ranger at Chichester Hub. Image: Fortescue Metals Group.

Fortescue Metals Group has advanced its futuristic mobility plans, deploying four autonomous Ford Ranger light vehicles at the Chichester Hub iron ore operations in Western Australia.

Developed by Fortescue’s technology and autonomy team, the autonomous light vehicles will make 12,000 28-kilometre round trips each year to collect equipment and parts.

This removes the need for fitters to make this trip, boosting the efficiency of the Christmas Creek mobile maintenance team.

Working alongside Ford Australia, the four Rangers have been retrofitted with an on-board automation system, supporting driverless equipment transfer services.

The automation system boasts a Lidar/Radar perception system for obstacle detection and avoidance, a fail-safe braking system and built-in system monitoring and fault response capabilities.

With the successful introduction of the autonomous light vehicles at Christmas Creek, Fortescue plans to bring in similar systems at its other sites for improved safety, productivity and efficiency.

“The autonomous light vehicle project is a significant advancement of our in-house automation capability, building on our leading autonomous haulage system program which has already delivered significant productivity and efficiency improvements for the business,” Fortescue chief executive officer Elizabeth Gaines said.

“With the flexibility to introduce similar systems into other mobile assets, this project is fundamental to our future mobile equipment automation projects.”

Ford Australia president and chief executive officer Andrew Birkic added that working with companies such as Fortescue is key to gaining insights into its users’ needs.

“Ford globally is at the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles,” Birkic said. “Working with companies like Fortescue is critical to gaining an insight into specific user applications.”

The Chichester Hub comprises Fortescue’s Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek iron ore mines.

Fortescue began trialling autonomous light vehicles at Christmas Creek in March last year. They will join the company’s 109 autonomous haulage system trucks in operation across its Pilbara operations.

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