Mining corporation Rio Tinto, which also developed the train, announced earlier this week the train had successfully completed its first unmanned mission, traveling nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) without a person on board.
“Rio Tinto is proud to be a leader in innovation and autonomous technology in the global mining industry which is delivering long-term competitive advantages as we build the mines of the future," said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Chris Salisbury, in a statement. "New roles are being created to manage our future operations and we are preparing our current workforce for new ways of working to ensure they remain part of our industry.”
The mission, located at Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, is the first big step in the company's plans to have a fully autonomous train network. It's used autonomous trains since early 2017, with about 50 percent of its train operations being completed autonomously, but with drivers present at all times.
Rio Tinto hopes to have a fully autonomous train network by late 2018, but will have to meet Australia's safety and acceptance criteria first, as well as acquire the necessary regulatory approvals.