Fortescue deploys autonomous light vehicles

Fortescue Metals Group and Ford Australia have teamed up to retrofit four Ford Rangers with on-board vehicle automation systems at the Christmas Creek mine in Western Australia.

The autonomous light vehicles feature a Lidar/Rader perception system, enabling obstacle detection and avoidance for vehicle safety.

The Ford Rangers also boast independent safety management and a fail-safe braking system to reduce the risk of crashes, as well as built-in monitoring and fault response capabilities.

With the autonomous light vehicles now operational, Fortescue’s fitters will not be required to make 12,000 28-kilometre road trips per year to pick up mining equipment and parts.

Fortescue plans to implement a similar system at other sites, joining its 100-plus fleet of autonomous haulage system trucks across Western Australia.

“The autonomous light vehicle project is a significant advancement of our in-house automation capability,” Fortescue chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said.

“With the flexibility to introduce similar systems into other mobile assets, this project is fundamental to our future mobile equipment automation projects.

“(Fortescue’s) focus on technology and innovation that has driven our industry leading operational performance and cost position.”

Ford Australia president and chief executive Andrew Birkic said the automobile company was proud to see its vehicles used as part of Fortescue’s autonomous light vehicle project.

“Ford globally is at the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles,” Birkic said.

“Working with companies like Fortescue is critical to gaining an insight into specific user applications.”