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AUTONOMOUS TRAIN

The strict environmental targets set by the EU are in favour of developing the electric modes of transport, and railway transport is the most energy efficient way to transport goods by land.

Inspiration and innovation, success and opportunity

The autonomous train unit in development is intended to be a low emission and more cost-effective solution for short-distance industrial transport that is currently handled mainly by road transport. An increasingly important feature of the train is safety.

The advantages of an autonomous train unit also include agility and the longevity of the invested infrastructure. In addition, it offers a solution to the problem of available drivers, because, as the name implies, an autonomous train runs independently without a driver.

  • Increase safety
  • Decrease CO² emissions
  • Create autonomous, competitititive and agile train logistitic

Autonomous Train System

Proxion Plan Oy started ambitition Autonomous Train Development project in September 2019. Project was planned to consist of three phases and the basic idea was to move from phase to another only if the outcomes are good enough for further investments in research and development.

Phase 1

Conceptualization

We knew that autonomous driving in general would not take place in next decade, so we decided to concentrate in industrial rails. We started cooperation with Finnish steel and forest industry. Challenges what they faced with their current logistic concept were related to safety, sustainability, and cost level even if the concept itself is flexible. We started pre-studies about autonomous train’s capabilities in industrial environment.

We developed a concept that was based on battery driven locomotives, shunting free fixed train units and GoA4 Autonomous Train Operations (ATO). Fully automated loading and unloading integrated with production and other transportation modes were part of the conceptualization. From the first beginning we also had a close cooperation with Finnish rail traffic authorities to understand possible obstacles in legislation. We did also payback calculations and found the concept worth for further development. The goal was defined: To develop safe, green, and economic competitive logistic concept that is based on autonomous train.

The strict environmental targets set by the EU are in favour of developing the electric modes of transport, and railway transport is the most energy efficient way to transport goods by land. The innovative development of rail transport is therefore in key position, as the goals are to develop transportation that is lower in emissions and to achieve better rail utilization.

Autonomous train project director
Reijo Viinonen, Proxion

Phase 2

Research and development

The outcome from the 1st phase was so promising that we decided to move to 2nd phase research, development, and verification. The project is Business Finland Co-Innovation project funded by Business Finland and companies involved. Proxion as a coordinator with partners VTT, Steel Wheel and Electric Power Finland. The project value is 3,6 million euros. The project is ongoing and will be ready by the end of the summer 2022. System tests are currently starting, Based on the current outcomes we have decided to move to 3rd phase of the autonomous train development. The target is that the 3rd pilot phase includes fully GoA4 rail freight logistic system.

In our further studies we found also that autonomous rail freight concept has also a good match in freight ports. There are a lot of traffic like terminal tractors, straddle carriers and container movers from terminal areas multimodal hubs to the docks. Distances very suitable for battery operated autonomous freight trains which will be charged during loading goods on. By moving goods on tracks means less vehicles in guarded environment
that increases safety, battery driven rolling-stock means zero CO2 emissions and driverless process with higher transfer capacity with automated loading and unloading creates operational competitiveness.

Proxion Autonomous Green Rail Freight Research and Development project will offer GoA4 solution including Management software, Wireless Communication System, CCS+ Software, Digitized track and autonomous battery driven train. There will be seamless integration with the other supply chain processes such as loading/unloading in factory, multimodal and port.

It is important to ensure that the autonomous train operates reliably in all conditions and on a wide range of track connections. It is a leap towards safer railway transport. For example, sensor interpretation technology for the train unit is being developed as is combining a thermal camera and radar observations in order to be able to react correctly and in time to any obstacles or situations ahead.

Principal scientist
Pertti Peussa, VTT

Phase 3

Pilot phase in real industry environment

Based on the current outcomes we have decided to move to 3rd phase of the
autonomous train development. The target is that the 3rd pilot phase includes fully GoA4
rail freight logistic system.

In our further studies we found also that autonomous rail freight concept has also a good
match in freight ports. There are a lot of traffic like terminal tractors, straddle carriers
and container movers from terminal areas multimodal hubs to the docks. Distances very
suitable for battery operated autonomous freight trains which will be charged during
loading goods on. By moving goods on tracks means less vehicles in guarded environment
that increases safety, battery driven rolling-stock means zero CO2 emissions and
driverless process with higher transfer capacity with automated loading and unloading
creates operational competitiveness.

Proxion Autonomous Green Rail Freight Research and Development project will offer
GoA4 solution including Management software, Wireless Communication System, CCS+
Software, Digitized track and autonomous battery driven train. There will be seamless
integration with the other supply chain processes such as loading/unloading in factory,
multimodal and port.

Co-Innovation partners