The Ford Ranger is a rather versatile mid-size pickup currently on sale across the globe. But the Ranger isn’t just a favorite of private citizens – it’s also a popular choice among commercial fleets and is even available with bulletproof cladding in South Africa. And if that isn’t versatile enough for us, now there are autonomous Ford Rangers set to roam Fortescue Metals Group’s mining operations in the Chichester Hub in Western Australia.
The autonomous Ford Rangers were developed by Fortescue’s Technology and Autonomy team as a way to improve the efficiency of the Christmas Creek mobile maintenance team. The autonomous light vehicles (ALVs), as they’re officially called, eliminate the need for fitters to make around 12,000 28-kilometer (roughly 17-mile) annual round trips to collect equipment and parts.
With the assistance of Ford Australia, four Ford Rangers have been retrofitted with an onboard vehicle automation system to support the driverless equipment transfer service, which will improve efficiency and safety by enabling team members to spend more time maintaining assets.
The system features an integrated Lidar/Radar perception system that facilitates obstacle detection and dynamic obstacle avoidance, comprehensive independent safety management and fail-safe braking system, and extensive built-in system monitoring and fault response capability. FTA says that the successful deployment of ALVs at Christmas Creek will provide the opportunity to implement a similar system at other operational sites to improve safety, productivity, and efficiency.
“Since the outset, Fortescue has been at the forefront of innovation in the mining industry, underpinned by our value of generating ideas,” said Fortescue Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Gaines. “It is this focus on technology and innovation that has driven our industry-leading operational performance and cost position.”
“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,” Gaines said. “With the flexibility to introduce similar systems into other mobile assets, this project is fundamental to our future mobile equipment automation projects.”
“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.”