Transport News, Truck Technology

First fully autonomous road trains designed and developed in WA

The global first autonomous heavy vehicle project is about to be deployed in WA

In a world first, Mineral Resources (MinRes) is set to deploy a fleet of 120 fully autonomous road trains that have been designed and developed for its Onslow Iron project in Western Australia.

The project will see the road trains equipped with an autonomous haulage solution provided by specialists Hexagon AB under a landmark agreement.

The vehicles combine technological expertise from Hexagon’s Autonomous Solutions with MinRes’ operational knowledge and promise enormous benefits.

This includes removing the risk of driver fatigue, increasing fleet availability, lowering operating costs and reducing fuel use and emissions.

A team of operators will control the fleet from a central operating centre in Onslow. MinRes is also developing an artificial intelligence-powered monitoring system.

“We’re excited to cement our partnership with Hexagon to deliver the world’s first fleet of autonomous road trains, which will be an essential part of Onslow Iron’s safe, efficient and dust-free solution for hauling ore,” MinRes chief executive of mining services Mike Grey says.

“Automation will remove the risk of driver fatigue, lower operating costs and reduce fuel use and emissions. There’s enormous potential for these vehicles to transform mining across the world.”

MinRes says autonomous road trains form an essential part of the cost-effective and dust-free supply chain that will unlock deposits in the West Pilbara that would otherwise remain undeveloped.

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Each triple-trailer vehicle will carry 330 tonnes of iron ore about 150km on a dedicated private haul road from the Ken’s Bore mine site to the Port of Ashburton.

Safety is at the forefront of the project’s design. Grade separation will ensure there is no interaction between the autonomous road trains operating on the haul road and vehicles using public roads.

Ore will be transported to a 220,000-tonne enclosed, negative pressure storage facility at the port. From there, 20,000-tonne capacity transhippers will move the ore to cape-size carriers 40 kilometres off the coast.

Testing of autonomous road trains has been progressing at MinRes’ Yilgarn iron ore operations since late 2021 ahead of the technology’s deployment at Onslow Iron.

The project, which is the cornerstone of MinRes’ strategy to deliver low-cost, long-life iron ore operations, will ship about 35 million tonnes of iron ore per year from mid-2024.

“At Hexagon, we see autonomy as a way to vastly improve our world,” Hexagon president and CEO Paolo Guglielmini says.

“This agreement with MinRes will ensure that transport activities will be safer, more sustainable and more productive. I’m excited to see how similar solutions can be applied in other markets such as agriculture and heavy industry.”

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