An autonomous mining train in Australia has become completely operational and is now being regarded as the ‘world’s largest robot’.
Mining corporation Rio Tinto recently claimed that an autonomous rail system, which it calls ‘AutoHaul’, has been developing in the remote Pilbara region of Australia for several years and is now finally completely operational.
This achievement, as per the firm, makes the system as the ‘world’s largest robot’. “It’s been a challenging journey to automate a rail network of this size and scale in a remote location like the Pilbara,” Rio Tinto’s managing director Ivan Vella told.
“But, early results indicate significant potential to improve productivity, providing increased system flexibility and reducing bottlenecks,” he continued. These trains aren’t meant for passengers, but instead to ferry the iron-ore giant’s mining resources and operations from mines to ports, from remote parts of Australia.
Rio Tinto has around 200 locomotives running on over 1,700km of track that transports ore from its 16 mines to four Pilbara port terminals. Almost every locomotive and line has been automated and the trains are controlled by the firm’s remote operations center in Perth.
These trains are fitted with on-board cameras that are at all times monitored from the operations centers. On an average, Rio Tinto trains travel 800km on return journeys, a typical of which takes about 40 hours.
Rio Tinto finished its first test of the autonomous train earlier this year without any human on board. Since then, the firm claims that AutoHaul has completed over a million kilometers of autonomous travel. Also, the firm promised that the driverless rail system will not eliminate any existing jobs in the coming years.
Meanwhile, AutoHaul is only one part of an ambitious automation project involving robotics and driverless vehicles. For future, Rio Tinto wants to use this system to automate its mining operations further.
“The safe and successful deployment of across our network is a strong reflection of the pioneering spirit inside Rio Tinto,” said Vella.