The Rio Tinto mining group has taken a huge step into the future by successfully completing the first ever driverless train journey in Western Australia. This success marks the first step in the company's move towards fulfilling its AutoHaul program, in which all trains will be fully automated in freighting iron ore and other products by the end of 2018.
Australia is a world leader in key aspects of automation, especially in relation to autonomous vehicles enhancing mining capabilities.
A Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development report on automated transport identified Australia as a world leader in key aspects of automation, especially in relation to autonomous vehicles enhancing mining capabilities. The benefits to autonomous freight trains in Australian mining are multifold, but have three main positives:
1. Greater efficiency
Answering whether or not autonomous trains will make Australian mining transport more efficient is obvious when you consider the unlimited potential of automated work processes. Human drivers and train operators require sufficient breaks for health and safety reasons – with autonomous trains freighting mining products and equipment, journeys can be made 24/7, any time of the year. This will vastly improve the amount of work done onsite and increase the amount of mined product delivered over a period of time.
A PwC report indicates that while average wages in mining have risen in recent years, productivity has fallen – leaving an increasingly slim bottom line for mine operators. Removing the need for human drivers will save money in Australian mining transport. Additionally, autonomous trains will have the ability to run internal self-analysis and report on any mechanical or computing issues with the train, minimising the need for expensive engineering maintenance and assessment.
3. Upskilled and safer workers
Finally, autonomous trains will be able to free up your labour force for vital upskilling. In an industry as reliant on basic labour and simple repetitive processes as mining, it is invaluable to replace human workers with machinery and software.
This enables mine operators to upskill their workforce for roles that require more complex decision making and emotional intelligence skills, such as management. Additionally, reducing the need for human labour in basic processes like transport reduces the risk of injury to people should something go wrong in rail transit.
Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in rail engineering as an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacturing. For more information on the range we supply to the aerospace market, contact Interconnect Systems today.