Rio completes first fully autonomous rail journey in Pilbara

Copyright © 2017 Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a step closer to its goal of having a network of driverless trains in the Pilbara after undertaking the first fully autonomous rail journey at the Western Australian iron ore operations.

The company is aiming to fully commission the AutoHaul driverless train project by late next year. The nearly 100km pilot run was completed without a driver on board, according to Rio, making it the first fully autonomous heavy haul train journey ever completed in Australia.

Rio, with representatives from the National Rail Safety Regulator, monitored the journey in real time from the company’s operations centre in Perth.

The miner regards the pilot run from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo as a significant step forward toward full commissioning of AutoHaul, which will depend on it meeting safety and acceptance criteria and obtaining regulatory approvals.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the pilot run put the company firmly on track to meet its goal of operating the world’s first fully autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network.

“Gains from AutoHaul are already being realised including reduced variability and increased speed across the network, helping to reduce average cycle times,” he said.

“Rio Tinto is proud to be a leader in innovation and autonomous technology in the global mining industry which is delivering long-term competitive advantages as we build the mines of the future. New roles are being created to manage our future operations and we are preparing our current workforce for new ways of working to ensure they remain part of our industry.”

Rio originally launched the driverless trains project in 2012, and had plans to have the program fully installed by 2015.