World’s first fully autonomous freight train goes for a spin in Australia

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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • While every transportation company on Earth is racing to build fully autonomous vehicle they’ve all been beaten to market by the world’s first fully autonomous freight train


 

This week Rio Tinto, who are already operating the world’s largest autonomous dump truck, the 250 ton electric Komatsu AHV, announced they’d achieved another first – a sixty mile test run of the world’s first fully autonomous freight train in the great Australian outback.

 

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The Australian mining company, who along with its biggest competitor BHP Billiton, have both been fully automating the world’s mines, as well as move their supply chains onto the blockchain, announced it’s been running trains in autonomous mode since the beginning of 2017, and that as of July around 20 percent of train runs were being completed autonomously.

 

The world’s first autonomous train

 

That said though they also stressed that up until the latest successful pilot, which had no human aboard at all, the trains had all had drivers on board as a failsafe.

“This successful pilot run puts us firmly on track to meet our goal of operating the world’s first fully autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Chris Salisbury.

 

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While there are already a few prototype autonomous train systems in existence, for example France’s SNCF train, and a few autonomous subways and airport shuttles, like the ones at London’s Heathrow, this is the world’s first fully functional autonomous freight train and the success puts Rio Tinto firmly on track to meet their goal of building a fully autonomous train network in 2018.

Trains, in many ways, make ideal autonomous vehicles because unlike trucks, ships and even aircraft their navigational requirements and the environments they operate in are much simpler, and that makes switching over to a driverless system much more feasible, and now that Rio Tinto has finished its first successful pilot you can expect more companies and industries to follow suit.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, award winning Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank working between the dates of 2020 and 2070, is described as "The Adviser behind the Advisers." Regularly featured on AP, CNBC, Discovery and RT, his ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past five years as one of the world's foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive future. A rare talent Matthew sits on the Technology and Innovation Committee (TIAC) for Centrica, Europe’s largest utility company, and his recent work includes mentoring XPrize teams, building the first generation of biocomputers and re-inventing global education, and helping the world’s largest manufacturers envision, design and build the next 20 years of devices, smartphones and intelligent machines. Matthew's clients are the who’s who of industry and include Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, the USAF and many others.

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