Currently underway at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt Operations in Western Australia is a test programme for a new generation of autonomous transport systems using the first autonomous truck in Australia, manufactured by Scania. In August 2018 the first phase of the testing trial began using a Scania XT 8×4 autonomous tipper truck. This truck is working separately from Dampier’s active operations.
A safety driver is riding inside the vehicle during this initial stage, this is so a real person can observe the trucks performance, and, if need be, intervene should there be any issues or problems. During different phases of the test programme more Scania autonomous tracks will be added to the testing programme, this is to watch and develop vehicle awareness and intelligent fleet supervisory controls. It is important to see how trucks will behave when there is more that one truck in working service.
Rio Tinto’s head of Productivity and Technical Support Rob Atkinson added. *We’re pleased to be trialling this technology in trucks that are smaller than our traditional haul trucks. This has the potential to give us more flexibility in the way we operate in a number of areas across Rio Tinto. We have seen automation create safer and more efficient operations in our business and this is a next step in evaluating options for delivering further improvements through the use of technology. *
The Head of Scania Mining Bjorn Winblad added *Mining sites given their high vehicle utilisation rates are ideal for testing new autonomous technology. The industry can reap the safety and productivity benefits of automation, and the experience gained here will be instrumental in developing fully autonomous solutions for other transport applications. It is very encouraging to note that the truck has been performing in a safe manner and in accordance with expectations with regards to the operations.*
This is exciting news for Scania and the Scania truck parts range, with Rio Tinto pioneering the use of automation within the mining industry and will have the largest fleet of driverless trucks, making them the first in the world to have fully-autonomous heavy haul, long-distance rail network, and fully autonomous production drills.
This is a real *game changer* not just for the mining industry, but the trucking industry as well, with advancements being made constantly, the transport world is changing and, in a few years, will be a world, we just never could have imagined.