Rio Tinto’s autonomous truck fleet hit one billion tonne milestone

Rio Tinto’s driverless truck fleet in Australia have reached a significant milestone by hauling their one-billionth tonne of material, 10 years after commencing trial operations for the autonomous system.

The mining giant first fitted haul trucks with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology in 2008, and now calls on 80 driverless Komatsu trucks to transfer ore and waste material across five sites in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Crucially for the technology, there have been zero injuries attributed to autonomous haul trucks in the decade they have been in operation.

In 2017, each autonomous truck was estimated to have operated around 700 hours longer than conventional haul trucks and at 15% lower load and haul unit costs.

“Hauling one billion tonnes autonomously is an impressive milestone for our business and again highlights Rio Tinto’s pioneering spirit when it comes to adopting revolutionary new technologies which are making the industry safer and more efficient,” said Rio’s chief executive Chris Salisbury.

“We are studying future additions to our autonomous truck fleet that we expect will contribute to our US$5 billion productivity programme, specifically Iron Ore’s commitment to deliver $500 million of additional free cash flow from 2021 onwards.”

Rio is aiming to boost its autonomous truck fleet from 80 to 140 vehicles by the end of 2019.