Autonomous freight trains (Smart Rail World)

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The development of AV technology in rail is already being planned on lines around the world. In Australia’s Pilbara region, global mining giant Rio Tinto are looking at the world’s first fully autonomous, heavy-haul, long-distance railway system – intended to transport iron ore. In the Netherlands, Prorail announced in 2016 it is planning to trial automated operation freight trains. And an operator that often leads the way in innovation, the CEO of German operator Deutsche Bahn, Rüdiger Grube, has publically stated they wish to introduce driverless trains by 2021.

These trains will be adapting the concepts used on AV cars and emerging SDN (Software Defined Networks) and NVF (Network Function Virtualization) Telecom technologies to create what Val calls “software defined trains (SDT)” and “train function virtualization (TFV)” that can use just one HPEC platform with built-in redundancy and are not reliant on infrastructure at all. These technologies when combined with IoT enabled Gateways and Fog/Cloud processing will also enable new business models such as TaaS (Transporation as a Service).

“The advantages of this kind of development are numerous, they reduce total cost of ownership for train operators and make smaller requirements on investment by eliminating many of the costly trackside infrastructure. The cost of technology like sensors is decreasing as well, so it becomes a more achievable opportunity.” said Val.

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Written by Long Branch Mike