Australian miner Fortescue says two driverless trucks involved in low-speed incident

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Australian iron ore miner Fortescue said on Friday that one of its driverless trucks, travelling at low speed, ran into another that was parked at its remote Western Australian operations in an incident earlier this week.

The miner said in a statement that noone was hurt or at risk of being injured in the Feb. 11 incident. Fortescue is retrofitting 100 huge mining trucks with autonomous haulage systems (AHS) at its remote Chichester hub, aiming to more than double its self-driving fleet.

“This was not the result of any failure of the autonomous system,” Fortescue Chief Executive Elizabeth Gaines said in the statement. The miner is conducting a full investigation into the incident and expects that to conclude in the near future.

“On Monday, 11 February an AHS truck made contact with a parked AHS truck at slow speed,” the statement said, without disclosing the speed at which the moving vehicle was travelling or details of any damage to the trucks. “No manned vehicles or people were involved.”

Analysts said that minor accidents with autonomous vehicles had been reported in the mining industry before. All of Australia’s iron ore miners have transitioned into using some autonomous vehicles to cut costs as they can operate without breaks and drive more efficiently.

“These things happen (across the industry) from time to time,” said UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock in Sydney.

Earlier on Friday the West Australian paper, without citing sources, reported the moving truck backed into the stationary vehicle.

Fortescue, which said its AHS trucks have safely travelled more than 24.7 million kilometres since 2012, declined to comment directly on the West Australian’s report.

A spokesman for the firm, which reports earnings on Feb. 20, said, “We already have a good understanding of the incident and expect the investigation to conclude in the near term.”

MELBOURNE (Reuters)

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