Fortescue Metals Group has confirmed the successful deployment of autonomous light vehicles (ALVs) at its mining operations in the Chichester Hub in Australia’s Pilbara region.

With its partner Ford Australia, the operator has brought in four Ford Rangers that have been retrofitted with on-board vehicle automation systems to allow for driverless equipment transfer service to improve efficiency and safety.

The units in the programme were developed by the FMC technology and automation team to improve the efficiency of the mobile maintenance team at the company’s Christmas Creek property. ALVs, it said, remove the need for fitters to make about 12,000 28-km round trips annually to collect equipment and parts.

“The successful deployment of ALVs at Christmas Creek will provide the opportunity to implement a similar system at other operational sites to improve safety, productivity and efficiency,” the miner said.

The system features an integrated Lidar/radar perception system for obstacle detection and dynamic obstacle avoidance. It also has a comprehensive independent safety management and fail-safe braking system, and extensive built-in system monitoring and fault response capability.

Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines said the autonomous light vehicle project represents a “significant advancement” of the company's in-house automation capability as it grows its autonomous haulage system (AHS) programme.

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