Aussie miner’s shock hi-tech ute

One of the world’s biggest iron ore miner’s has teamed up with Ford Australia to create a bespoke hi-tech ute.

An Aussie mining giant has commissioned a new fleet of remote-control utes.

Iron ore miner, Fortescue Metals Group, has teamed up with Ford Australia to turn the popular Ford Ranger ute into an autonomous vehicle.

The company will deploy four Ford Rangers that have been retrofitted with driverless car tech.

The utes employ Lidar technology, which operates in the same way as radar but use laser light waves rather than radio waves to sense distances and objects. It is already widely used by the car industry in safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking.

Fortescue said the vehicle would be used at its Christmas Creek Mine located in the Pilbara, in the far north west of Western Australia.

They will be used exclusively by the mobile maintenance team and will remove the need for technicians to make about 12,000 28km round trips annually to pick up equipment and parts.

The driverless technology in the Rangers assists with obstacle detection and avoidance, comprehensive independent safety management, fail safe braking and extensive built-in vehicle monitoring and fault response capability.

Fortescue’s chief executive, Elizabeth Gaines, said this kind of technology helped reduce costs and improve performance.

“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,” said Gaines.

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

The head of Ford Australia, Andrew Birkic, said the brand was excited to be part of Fortescue’s autonomous light vehicle project.

“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,” Mr Birkic said.

Driverless car technology makes a lot of sense for remote mines, which require workers to cover large distances and the lack of other road users removes one of the technology’s biggest challenges.

This isn’t the first time Aussie miners have gone for hi-tech bespoke work vehicles.

Toyota and BHP have collaborated to convert LandCruiser 70 Series utes from petrol-guzzling V8s to electric green machines.

A trial vehicle has been built by Toyota in Victoria and will be used underground in Western Australia.

Toyota Australia’s president and chief executive Matthew Callachor said the trial was another step toward a zero emissions future.

“BHP and Toyota have demonstrated a strong relationship throughout the last 20 years, and this project is a great testament to how we can both work together as leading companies in our respective industries to change the future,” Mr Callachor said.

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