Fortescue Metals Group is making further moves into the future of mobility, using its experience in autonomous technology in its mining operations to create an autonomous research and development centre in the Western Australian town of Karratha.

The centre, which will be developed with the City of Karratha, will be used to explore and develop opportunities for using autonomous mobility tech in the urban environment.

To be known as the Fortescue Future of Mobility Centre, its first project will be developing an autonomous bus in coming months.

Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines says that the company’s track record in autonomous track puts the mining company in the perfect position to become a world leader in the cutting edge technology.

“We are at the forefront of this technology with our mine operations set to become the first in the world to be fully autonomous and our fleet having safely travelled over 26 million kilometres since the first autonomous truck was introduced in 2012,” Gaines said in a statement.

“We are now building on our autonomous capability with the commencement of an autonomous light vehicle trial, at our Christmas Creek mine.

“The emergence of autonomy is one aspect in which our world is changing rapidly, and we intend to be part of the opportunities that it will represent for the mining industry, local communities such as Karratha, and beyond,”  Gaines said.

“By establishing the Fortescue Future of Mobility Centre in Karratha we will have the ability to develop, test and trial this technology, further contributing to Western Australia’s position as a world leader in autonomous tech.”

An auto haul truck operated by FMG. Source: FMG
An auto haul truck operated by FMG. Source: FMG

All facets of the autonomous mobility including software, hardware and various forms of mobility solutions will be explored at the centre, which will compliment the City of Karratha’s recent infrastructure upgrades.

“While the City will continue to be the hub of resources and energy projects for the nation, we are now entering an exciting new phase of economic development and diversification,” said the City of Karratha’s mayor Peter Long.

“The City has invested millions of dollars into key infrastructure and amenity upgrades to activate our city centre and provide enhanced facilities and services to our residential and business communities as we strive towards our vision of becoming Australia’s most liveable regional city.

“I am delighted that of all the potential locations around Australia, Fortescue has selected Karratha as its base to develop this exciting and innovative new technology,” Long said.

The company already uses autonomous technology in its auto haul trucks – the reliabilty of which has come under question after two of its trucks crashed recently at its Christmas Creek iron ore mine.

However the company is reporting that the incident was due not to a fault in its autonomous tech, but to a dropout in wi-fi.

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