A driverless road train pilot program is continuing to gain momentum, following a successful world first run of a triple road train platoon, with each combination hauling 300 tonnes of iron ore.
“No one has ever run autonomous road trains in a platoon configuration. The team’s done a great job – extremely proud,” said Mike Grey, chief executive of Mining Services at Mineral Resources.
“It’s effectively a train, not far different in cost but certainly far more agile. Today, we had 900 tonne going down the road in one train.”
Mineral Resources has been working on the autonomous road train project in partnership with digital reality solutions provider Hexagon, integrating its drive-by-wire technology with an autonomous management system to orchestrate vehicle movement.
The latest demonstration run was a major milestone for the project, which has been underway at Mineral Resource’s Yilgarn iron ore operations since late 2021.
Grey says he’s delighted that Mineral Resources was leading the world with this ground-breaking innovation.
“It’s been an exciting journey over the past year and we’ve now achieved a world-first platoon of three autonomous road trains, which is a game changer for us,” he said.
“It’s an extremely proud moment to see our autonomous project grow from desktop concept to iron ore reality so quickly.”
Mineral Resources is known for its innovative and low-cost solutions across the mining infrastructure supply chain. It says these autonomous road trains will form an essential part of the cost-efficient supply chain, unlocking stranded resources in the Pilbara region as part of the Ashburton Hub Iron Ore Project.
The company has also introduced a number of new technologies over recent years to enhance the safety and operational efficiency of its long-distance road train haulage fleet.
“As we get ready for the Ashburton Hub Iron Ore Project and look to unlock stranded tonnes of iron ore, our autonomous road trains will be the vital link between the pit and the port,” Grey added.
“As the first of its kind in the world, it opens up new opportunities for us, as we can trial the technology ourselves before offering it to our Tier 1 customers.”
Nick Hare, president of Hexagon’s mining division, added Mineral Resources is an ideal partner for a project of this size and complexity. “This is a world first because no one has ever targeted road trains in a fixed infrastructure, which is an opportunity to do something completely new for the industry. We value the opportunity to demonstrate our position as a leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions,” he said.
“It’s the heaviest loaded haulage in the world, first autonomous platoon system in the world, and the speed at which MRL (Mineral Resources) is bringing everything to market, it’s really a privilege to partner together.”