Australian metals and mining company Fortescue Metals has rolled out four modified Ford Rangers that have been retrofitted with on-board vehicle automation systems at the company’s Chichester Hub mining operations in Western Australia.
Fortescue recently revealed that it’s Technology and Autonomy team had, with the assistance of Ford Australia, retrofitted four Ford Rangers with an on-board vehicle automation system to support driverless equipment transfer service around the company’s Christmas Creek mine.
The autonomous retrofits are designed to improve the efficiency of the Christmas Creek mobile maintenance team by introducing autonomous light vehicles (ALVs) which help remove the need for fitters to make what Fortescue claims is around 12,000 28-kilometre round trips each year to collect equipment and parts.
The autonomous modifications include the integration of a lidar/radar perception system that allows for the detection and avoidance of obstacles, a comprehensive independent safety management and failsafe braking system, as well as extensive built-in system monitoring and fault response capability.
If proven successful, Fortescue hopes its Christmas Creek trial of autonomous light vehicles will provide the company an opportunity to implement a similar system at its other operational sites with an eye to improving safety, productivity, and efficiency.
“Since the outset, Fortescue has been at the forefront of innovation in the mining industry, underpinned by our value of generating ideas,” said Elizabeth Gaines, Fortescue Chief Executive Officer.
“It is this focus on technology and innovation that has driven our industry leading operational performance and cost position.
“The autonomous light vehicle project is a significant advancement of our in-house automation capability, building on our leading autonomous haulage system (AHS) program which has already delivered significant productivity and efficiency improvements for the business.
“With the flexibility to introduce similar systems into other mobile assets, this project is fundamental to our future mobile equipment automation projects.”
“We’re very proud that our award-winning Ford Rangers have been used as part of the Fortescue Metals Group autonomous light vehicle project,” said Andrew Birkic, Ford Australia President and Chief Executive Officer.
“Ford globally is at the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles, and working with companies like Fortescue is critical to gaining an insight into specific user applications.”