Articles, Level 5 Autonomous Driving

Rio Tinto: Where Autonomous Driving is already Reality

Mine operator Rio Tinto owns a fleet of autonomous trucks that is used to transport mining materials to increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s already been 10 years since the first self-driving dump truck transported overburden to a nearby train station. Back in 2008 the tests were so succesful that the company decided to strengthen its fleet. Over the years the number of autonomous trucks steadily increased - today there are more than 80 autonomous vehicles applied to the Pilbara mine in Australia.

AHS Autonomous Haulage System

The dump trucks were originally produced by the construction machine manufacturers Komat’su and Caterpillar. They are called AHS which stands for Autonomous Haulage Sytem and are controlled from the site’s operations center. Each truck is eqipped with a GPS transmitter so they can be located at any time.
Unlike conventional dump trucks the autonomous ones are in permanent use. That’s a difference of about 700 hours per year which makes 15% of the total runtime. They do not need vacation and cannot be detracted like humans behind the wheel. Rio Tinto representatives also underline the safety aspect - in the whole past decade there was not even one reported injury.

New Milestones

Last year the autonomous trucks carried a quarter of the whole overburden and dumped it into trains. Latter are also automated - if loaded up, they automatically start their journey through the Outback of Australia.
This year Rio Tinto reached the next milestone. The autonomous trucks have now carried one billion ton of soil through the site. Because of the huge success, Rio Tinto plans to implement additional trucks. The goal is to have 140 autonomous trucks driving through the mines of Pilbara until the end of 2019.

About the author:

David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: