Autonomous test train enters operation in France

autonomous regional trainSNCF and a partnership of Alstom, Bosch, Spirops, Thales and the Railenium Technology Research Institute, has launched the test operation of the prototype of an autonomous regional train in France, following two and a half years of development.

“Our project has just passed a significant milestone with great success. Another step has been taken towards achieving autonomy in rail. With our research work and trials, we are making progress in the rail sector and preparing for its future development,” Pierre Izard, the Director of Technology, Innovation and Group Projects, at  SNCF Group said.

A Regio 2N regional train has been modified and equipped for the purpose of the trials by the Alstom site in Crespin, formerly Bombardier. Various sensors, cameras, radars and lidars – laser detection, were fitted to collect essential data for the project.

The first trials took place over one week, in the beginning of March, between Aulnoye and Busigny and between Busigny and Calais, in the North of France. The Regio 2N regional train prototype ran on a commercial track, with the project’s engineers and technicians on board.

The trials included tests of the perception and recognition systems for the signals located along the track and the geolocation system, particularly by satellite, which provides the precise position of the train.

During this first phase of trials, the sensors and equipment of these new systems specially fitted on the train were activated for the purpose of observing how they work but did not interfere with the movement of the train.

The autonomous regional train was driven by an SNCF driver specialised in operating under test conditions.

At the end of this week of trials, tests were conducted at the CEF railway test centre in Petite-Forêt, near Valenciennes, to test the train’s autonomous operation system, which makes it possible to automate the acceleration and braking of the train.

From 17 to 21 May, following the tests carried out at the CEF railway test centre, a second series of trials has been scheduled to fine-tune the operating system of the train prototype. These new trials are taking place on the national railway network at Busigny, in the North of France and will lead, in the coming months, to semi-autonomous operation in the trial phase.

The semi-autonomous operation makes it possible to automate the acceleration and braking of the train, supervised by a driver.

These trials are a key step towards achieving the consortium’s ultimate objective to achieve a full autonomy by 2023.

The trials, authorised by the French National Railway Safety Authority (EPSF), will help to substantiate the safety demonstration required for the train’s future authorisation to operate.

Cybersecurity issues have been taken into consideration from the start of the project. The project partners are working closely with ANSSI (Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information), the French national cybersecurity authority.

This Regio 2N regional train will be used over the next two years as a prototype of the autonomous passenger train and will be tested on the track between Aulnoye and Busigny, during the school holidays.

Outside the research and test periods, the Regio 2N regional train, an activity of SNCF Voyageurs, will be in regular commercial service, transporting passengers. During these commercial trips, in conventional driving mode, it will record data that will improve the performance of the signal recognition algorithms by detecting, for example, the colour of the traffic lights and the surrounding environment of the train.

At the same time, laboratory work is being carried out on trial simulators at the sites of all the consortium partners to fine-tune the itineraries of the test train and further develop the automated system.


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