Automatic freight train tested in the US

New York Air Brake (NYAB), Knorr-Bremse’s North American subsidiary, deployed its on-board energy management system, Leader AutoPilot, to test the automatic driving capabilities of a freight train in Colorado. The system managed to automatically start, accelerate, brake, and stop a heavy-haul cargo train in different terrains, helping to cut fuel use and increase efficiency.
Driving on a 77-km test track and with locomotive engineers riding along, the system automatically operated three locomotives and 30 loaded wagons carrying 4,725 trailing tonnes. Solely under the command of a computer, the system managed to start and stop on uphill, downhill and flat grades. The test took place in a Positive Train Control (PTC) environment.
The demonstration was performed at the Transportation Technology Center, in Pueblo, Colorado. Leader AutoPilot uses track profiles, consist data including data on both the train’s cars and locomotives, as well as GPS data to calculate the ideal driving strategy in real time, optimizing fuel consumption and velocity, as well as reducing in-train forces.
Following this test, the solution proves that it can also operate trains with pneumatically controlled air brakes, a technology that is predominantly used in North America. This way, the system can precisely execute the driving strategy of each railway which installed the PTC.
“Leader AutoPilot commands all four freight-train control systems – throttle, dynamic brake, independent brake and air brakes – providing precise control that conserves fuel and reduces in-train forces,” said Jason Connell, NYAB’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Service.
Outside the US locomotive and heavy-haul freight market, the principal eco driving functions of Leader have been integrated in the digital platform “iCOM”, adapted for passenger and light freight operation.
Using track profiles and timetable information, train consist data including vehicle data, as well as GPS data and, before long, weather data as well, the “iCOM Assist” driver advisory system gives intelligent recommendations to the engineer to help reduce energy consumption and support on-time operation.
The next step is to increasingly integrate traffic management functions and establish a non-safety-relevant interface with the automatic train protection (ATP) system, strategically moving towards supporting automated train operation in the long run.

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