Ford Ranger turned into driverless courier at mine site
Ford Ranger becomes autonomous ute of choice on-site in Western Australia.
Australian iron ore mining company Fortescue Metals Group has customised four Ford Ranger utes for use as autonomous worksite couriers.
Named Autonomous Light Vehicles (ALV), they will help save workers from driving hundreds of thousands of kilometres.
The current small fleet is operational at Fortescue Metals’ Chichester Hub located in the Pilbara, Western Australia. The remote location is ideal for trialing the introduction of an autonomous fleet which will save technicians around 336,000km per year from the approximately 12,000 28km round-trips that are needed for collecting equipment and parts.
But safety is an obvious issue and the Rangers have been retrofitted especially with new Lidar equipment which uses lightwave detection for “obstacle detection and dynamic obstacle avoidance, a comprehensive independent safety management and failsafe braking system and extensive built-in system monitoring and fault response capability,” according to Fortescue Metals in its announcement.
The time-saving and cost-cutting program will be beneficial, though Lidar equipment is expensive, thus why it is not widely available in passenger cars yet – new cars use simpler Radar and camera-sensor-based technology for safety aids such as AEB and Adaptive Cruise control.
“Since the outset, Fortescue has been at the forefront of innovation in the mining industry, underpinned by our value of generating ideas. It is this focus on technology and innovation that has driven our industry leading operational performance and cost position,” said Fortescue Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Gaines.
“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.
Ford Australia was understandably chuffed that its ute was selected as the workhorse of choice: “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 Ford Australia President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Birkic.
“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.”