Rio Tinto has declared its once-troubled driverless rail system is back on track, saying it expected the system would be fully operational by the end of 2018.
A year ago Rio was forced to cut its 2017 export guidance and hit the reset button on the project after admitting it was struggling to integrate the complex software systems into a package that would allow it to move to completely autonomous haulage over its vast rail network.
But the company said yesterday the project was “advancing well”, and it was ramping up the number of trains operating in automated mode. All trains will have a driver, however, until Rio is confident the system is safe and reliable.
Rio told investors last month the AutoHaul system was delivering improvements in average train speeds, despite not being fully implemented.
Production from Rio’s Pilbara operations fell in the March quarter, compared with the same time last year, down 3 per cent to 77.2 million tonnes as poor weather flooded rail tracks and forced port closures. It shipped 76.7 million tonnes of ore, in line with the March 2016 quarter.