Australia’s Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator has approved the autonomous operation of trains at Rio Tinto’s business in the west of the country.
The mining corporation said that the AutoHaul project, which is focused on automating trains transporting iron ore to its port facilities in Pilbara, continues to progress and is on schedule to be completed at the end of 2018.
Trains started running in autonomous mode with a driver on-board monitoring operations in the first quarter of 2017.
At the end of 2017, Rio Tinto successfully completed a pilot service on the 100km-long route between Wombat Junction and Paraburdoo.
Rio Tinto said that in the first quarter of 2018 approximately 65 per cent of all train km were completed in autonomous mode.
More than three million km have now been completed in this mode and Rio Tinto is taking a phased approach to deploying autonomous trains across the network in the lead up to full commissioning.
The company wants to operate the world’s first fully autonomous, heavy haul, long distance rail network, which is expected to unlock significant safety and productivity benefits.
Rio Tinto operates about 200 locomotives on more than 1,700km of track in Pilbara, transporting ore from 16 mines to four port terminals.
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