The futuristic fantasies of living with giant robots and mega-machines have come closer to reality these days, when the AutoHaul ™ project completed in Rio Tinto the first delivery of iron ore by an autonomous train in Pilbara, in Western Australia. The project is expected to be fully operational during this year, becoming the first fully autonomous long-distance rail network in the world.
The vehicle, which consists of three locomotives and transported about 28,000 tons of iron ore, traveled more than 280 kilometers and was remotely monitored by operators of the Rio Tinto Operations Center in Perth, more than 1,500 kilometers away.
For Lido Costa, the main engineer, these are giant autonomous robots, because once they are in progress, they make all the decisions. “There is a train controller in the Operations Center in Perth that sets the route, but once it’s working, the onboard computers and the Operations Center computers take control and make their own decisions,” he says.
The team states that a network of computers ensures that the train stays at the speed limit, does not meet other trains or other trains that do not meet it, or that there is nothing that obstructs the level crossings, “And there are many other devices to protect people and equipment. For example, if one of the wheels has a fault, the train will be bought to stop or if one of the train couplers breaks. , the system will pick it up and stop the train, “explains Costa.
According to the authors of the project, the main advantages of the transition from manually operated trains to a completely autonomous system are safety and productivity. “We are eliminating the need to transport drivers 1.5 million kilometers each year to and from trains as they change their shift, this high-risk activity is something that driverless trains will greatly reduce,” he concludes.