Mining technology research organisation Mining3 is seeking to benchmark the accuracy and reliability of proximity detection systems, the units fitted to autonomous trucks to help them avoid collisions.\nThe group \u2013 a partnership between Cooperative Research Centre for Mining Technology and EquipmentandCSIRO\u2019s Mineral Resources group \u2013 is hoping to develop a \u201csafely executable field test program\u201d so mining companies can test the systems which are becoming ubiquitous in the sector.\n \nProximity Detection Systems (PDS) work by detecting when a person or vehicle is close by, and if so, responds by sounding an alarm, flashing a light or in some cases, halting the autonomous vehicle completely.\n \nThey are widely used in the mining sector, which is pursuing greater automation of its haulage vehicles and machinery.\n \nAustralian iron ore miner Fortescue, for example, 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. \nBHP, Roy Hill and Rio Tinto have also rolled out autonomous trucks across their operations in Australia.\n \nBut accidents happen. Fortescue last month revealed one of its driverless trucks, travelling at low speed, ran into another that was parkedat its Chichester, Pilbara site. It is unclear what caused the accident \u2013 the company\u2019s CEO Elizabeth Gaines saying in a statement it was \u201cnot the result of any failure of the autonomous system" \u2013 but the news has shone a spotlight on the true capabilities of driverless mining vehicles.\n \nMining3 said effective implementation of technologies like PDSto-date are \u201crare due to a general lack of understanding (or misconception) of the technology\u2019s true capabilities and limitations\u201d.\n \n\u201cReliability and functionality claims made by suppliers are not easily verifiable by the end user, at least not relative to any known framework, methodology, or standard. Additionally, there are many PDS units and multiple sensing technology categories used such as radio frequency, infrared, radar, ultrasonic, LIDAR, and combinations thereof,\u201d the group said.\n \nThe difficulty in selecting a PDS unit is further confounded by the lack of information about how it will work in their specific circumstances.\n \n\u201cThis leaves mining companies ill-equipped to decide which system type and functionality is best suited to their particular needs. Simply put, mining companies and suppliers do not have a consistent assessment protocol available to put the systems through their paces to determine how well a particular system might work for a given site,\u201d Mining3 explained.\n \nThe end result of the work will be a \u201cPDS Validation Framework that is scientifically rigorous yet practical for site to implement,\u201d the group said.\n \nMining3 is working with the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) and Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMERST) to develop the framework, and will be engaging with experts to ensure it works out in the field.\n \nThe USA and South Africa have legislated the requirement of PDS. The systems are not yet a legal requirement in Australia, but mining regulators in New South Wales and Queensland have both released guidance notes encouraging miners to introduce them.\n \n\u201cWith the global mining industry moving towards the legislated adoption of PDS, they are becoming a critical control measure for improving safety in mobile mining equipment,\u201d Mining3 noted.