How to Move More Freight Through America’s Packed Infrastructure? Robot Train

Texas News Today

Anyone who has ever sent a munchkin around a tree on Christmas morning knows that the main danger of a train is that the toys roll around on the railroad tracks and turn at high speed. Both are also the main dangers of a real train. So how difficult is it for you to make the train fully autonomous?

Or you may be wondering why you need to worry about trains and how they operate (be it the 1800s). Let’s back up a little. If you thought the United States relied entirely on trucks to transport goods, you might be struggling with a tunnel vision. Trains make up a third of a ton of miles. Year. It’s almost like being transported by truck. The United States has the widest rail network on the planet with a few miles of rail tracks, and yes, it’s even bigger than China. Today, like all other parts of the American supply chain, we are facing crises and overcrowding. Unprecedented activity at the port and record demand at several rail hubs.

Trains may seem like a mature technology with little room for improvement or expansion, as adding new rail lines is too expensive, as Amtrak’s struggles at the cost of expanding services show. Perhaps. However, researchers studying the issue have found that being fully autonomous leads to improved safety and more efficient use of the US rail network, significantly increasing the amount of freight that can be transported. . It states that it can be extended.

Energy consumption per mile is four to five times higher than that of trucks as the United States suffers from a shortage of truckers and companies are wondering how to reach their goal of reducing carbon emissions. A train may be a technology from two centuries ago. That time has come again.

I wrote about the limitations that hinder the grand ambitions of self-driving cars. However, trains have the ability to avoid those problems. The most important thing is that the train is on the rail tracks. This means that artificial intelligence train engineers don’t have to worry about issues affecting car and truck drivers. There are no tailgates, lane changes or left turns for traffic.

“I think trains reach full autonomy faster than vehicles,” said Maxim A., assistant professor of civil engineering at Florida A&M University. Doulbenets, who recently published a comprehensive review of the literature on autonomous trains. One reason for this is that hundreds of passenger trains are already running autonomously around the world as part of the city’s subway system.

Passengers arrive at Taijicheng station on the Beijing–Zhangjiakou high-speed railway in Hebei province, China. In January 2020, China began operating a fully autonomous “Shinkansen”.

Photo:
Lee Xin / Xinhua News Agency / Zuma Press

The first fully autonomous metro train debuted in 1981 in Kobe, Japan, and the technology has since spread from Paris to New Delhi and So Paulo to Vancouver. In 2019 the world’s first fully autonomous freight train was operated regularly in the hinterland of Australia by mining company Rio Tinto. In January 2020, China began operating a fully autonomous “bullet” train between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Several other trials of autonomous trains, both passenger and freight trains, are underway. Testing of German and Dutch autonomous freight trains servicing the Port of Rotterdam began this month. The French state railway company is currently testing trains that could start carrying passengers as early as 2023. In the United States, an autonomous freight train system manufactured by New York Air Brake was tested in the Colorado desert in 2019.

The future of autonomous trains could mean carrying more freight across America’s existing rail network without adding new lines, said Narinjain, WebTech’s group president of digital electronics. Growth.handjob

A train manufacturer based in Pittsburgh, its roots go back more than 150 years. Existing and future technologies allow trains to be longer, distances between trains shorter, and more efficient disassembly and rebuilding in ports and rail yards.

A BNSF freight train with 76 container cars and a FedEx freight trailer will pass through Montana in August. Trains have lengthened in recent years as technological advances, and may be even longer.

Photo:
William Campbell / Getty Images

According to an EU-funded survey released in 2020, migrating to a new system for managing trains could increase the capacity of existing rail networks by up to 44%. According to an internal study by WebTech, the rate of growth in the United States is even higher, which can be as high as 50%. Its increase in tonnage carried by the US rail network is equivalent to carrying approximately one million full Boeing 747-10 passenger aircraft from coast to coast each year.

Despite steam technicians gathering, automated train drivers are not ready to be deployed everywhere, warns Dr. Doulbenet. Most autonomous trains are built on new, dedicated tracks that do not need to be shared with other human-controlled trains. These new systems are free of hazards, such as highway intersections, where most train and car-related accidents occur each year in the United States.

Jean-François Beaudoin, president of digital and integrated systems at French locomotive manufacturer Alstom, said building autonomous trains that run on a shared open rail network does much more than achieve the same with a closed metro rail system. It says it is difficult...

To do this, we need to give these trains “eyes and ears”. This, as he says, is a sensor that can wait for the track to detect unexpected obstacles.

The complexity of the US rail network, where many lines are shared between several private railway companies, means that system automation can be difficult. This process “can take decades,” Dr. Dulbenet says. Coordinating self-driving cars with human-powered trains is partly similar to the challenges of self-driving technology. This technology needs to be mixed so that neither humans nor AI are confused.

From a security point of view, we are placing far more demands on machines than on humans. Because we are more considerate of people who make mistakes than machines that make mistakes. “Automated subway systems must be designed to make one mistake for every million people made by human engineers,” he says.

Another potentially big issue is cyber security. Since trains weigh between 4,000 and 20,000 tonnes, they can carry dangerous goods and take several miles to stop, allowing remote control of trains as a complete system for guiding trains. . If it is not secure, it means you are at risk of being hijacked by a hacker. ..

Another challenge for autonomous trains is legal – who will essentially be responsible in the event of an accident? As with self-driving cars, the challenge here is that even though an automated system is safer than a human-driven system, it could replace the person responsible for the accident if it breaks down. Once AI has complete control over trains, the long-held hypothesis of decision-making ethics philosophy, the so-called trolley problem, may become too literal.

Challenges aside, in some respects, US trains are already wonderfully automated, said Eric Gebhardt, chief technology officer at Webtech. Federal law requires all US trains to be equipped with a positive train control system by December 2020. It is like an automatic emergency braking system for a car. This system prevents trains from colliding with other trains, going too fast on curves, or blowing an incorrectly configured railroad switch.

Inside the locomotive cabs, semi-automatic train-driving features, such as the federally-mandated positive train control system, are displayed on the screen.

Photo:
Ed Leaker / WebTech

The transition to autonomous systems for trains is in line with other upgrades, as has happened with other types of transport infrastructure such as ports. Rationale: If you buy a new train or upgrade your rail system significantly, you can also upgrade all available and cost-effective at once.

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The next step in train automation is to move away from the existing “fixed block” system used to maintain a safe distance between trains. In this system, the track is divided into blocks of fixed length and only one train can be present at a time. Gebert says. On the other hand, in the “moving block” system, the safety buffers at the front and back of the train move simultaneously, causing the trains to approach and follow each other. However, switching to a moving block system requires maintaining constant communication between the train and the central dispatch system. Some customers have already tested such systems, Gebhardt says.

Assuming that these trains use a moving block system with the train’s on-board computer, implementing the new technology could cut the capacity of the rail network in half, according to an EU study. Such a system communicates with the train ahead knowing its weight, weather, what it is doing and when to brake. However, one of the advantages of rail networks is that they already lack signals and sensors. This allows you to incorporate some of the “intelligence” needed to control the train itself in the track, keep it along the track, or set the speed of the train. by remote system.

Rio Tinto’s remote operations center in Perth for autonomous freight trains in the Pilbara region of Australia.

Photo:
rio tinto

According to a Rio Tinto spokesperson, Australia’s world’s first and only full-time autonomous freight train includes both in-vehicle sensors and system-wide sensors and processing. The train itself has cameras, radar and collision detection systems, and the lines on which the trains run are also equipped with CCTV cameras at all public rail intersections.

Rio Tinto calls its automated train “the world’s largest robot”, which seems a reasonable explanation. The challenges of building and deploying automated trains around the world are the same challenges that robots face in all other fields, says Dr. Doulbenet. From accepting the public and communicating with other drivers to finding new roles for workers who can move away from their current roles, we are the main obstacle to the adoption of autonomous trains.

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The executives at Pittsburgh-based train maker, WabTech, have their roots back more than 150 years, and existing and future technologies allow trains to run longer, shorter distances and to ports and railroads in a more efficient manner. Yard. Doing so could increase the capacity of the existing US rail network by up to 50%, the company said.

Photo:
Ed Leaker / WebTech / The Associated Press

write to Christopher Mims ([email protected])

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Source Link How to move more goods through America’s packed infrastructure? robot train

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