Rio Tinto operates first fully-autonomous test train

Rio Tinto operates first fully-autonomous test train”

Rio Tinto has run its first train completely autonomously over a distance of nearly 100km, marking a major step forward for its AutoHaul project.

Rio's trains started running in autonomous mode in the first quarter of this year.

Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) says it has completed a 62-mile pilot run of the first fully autonomous rail journey at its iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with trains operated by individuals in an air-conditioned control room hundreds of miles away.

The 100 km pilot run from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo was completed without a driver on board.

On Monday, Rio Tinto said it had completed a pilot run spanning almost 62 miles with trains operated by individuals in an air-conditioned control room hundreds of miles away.

"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, one of the world's top exporters of iron ore, and runs ~200 locomotives around 1,060 miles of track in the Pilbara that haul ore from 16 mines to four port terminals.

The company hopes to commission its AutoHaul system by the end of next year once it has overcome the necessary safety and regulatory approvals.

Mr. Salisbury said the focus on automation technology was delivering a longer-term competitive advantage for Rio Tinto, and new roles at the company were being created to manage future operations.

The so-called Autohaul plan is part of the "Mine of the Future" project the company launched in 2008 and which also included the introduction of autonomous haulage trucks, automated drilling and the roll out of an operations centre near Perth airport.

Rio Tinto has long hailed the potential benefits of a driverless rail network, including speeding up journeys from mine to port and back, cutting out time needed for drivers' shift handovers and eliminating issues with driver fatigue.

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