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Ryan

AU(stralia) now equipped with robot freight trains

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https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/12/mining-company-says-first-autonomous-freight-train-network-is-fully-operational/

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On Friday, major mining corporation Rio Tinto reported that its AutoHaul autonomous train system in Western Australia had logged more than 1 million km (620,000 mi) since July 2018, S&P Global Platts reported. Rio Tinto calls it's now-fully-operational autonomous train system the biggest robot in the world.

The train system serves 14 mines that deliver to four port terminals. Two mines that are closest to a port terminal will retain human engineers because they are very short lines, according to Perth Now.

Looks interesting.  You've got to think that the railroads here in the US would love to cut out as many of their manning costs as possible.

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On 12/30/2018 at 9:37 AM, Ryan said:

 

Looks interesting.  You've got to think that the railroads here in the US would love to cut out as many of their manning costs as possible.

There is no doubt. With PTC, the operators wanted to go to single person road crews. However, certain states and communities have passed local laws stopping this. Still, the railroads will press on:

At Norfolk Southern, automation is driving information

https://www.railwayage.com/freight/class-i/at-norfolk-southern-automation-is-driving-information/?RAchannel=safety

 

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Another GE product, Yard Planner, is currently in testing at NS terminals, and there’s an array of in-locomotive technology looking for analytical and predictive items, including energy management systems Trip Optimizer from GE and LEADER (Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display & Event Recorder) from New York Air Brake. An ongoing “day in the life” program is testing thousands of theoretical train scenarios, and the company recently observed a demonstration of Trip Optimizer by GE at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), a subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads. “It was part of intelligence gathering in a process we see leading to one-person road crews,” says Dan Plonk, Director of Transportation Application Planning.

“With PTC integration, you can take everyone off the train. The development phase will take three to four years, including the sensor package and machine vision, and it will be 10 years to full integration” —until, he adds, public sentiment is firmly on the side of autonomous vehicle technology. “The last 10% of event-solving,” he admits, “is going to be a bear.”

 

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Reminds me of this article, for which my proposed headline was "Two iron ore companies experiment with self-driving trains, one intentionally":
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-46105280

Edit: And I was in a railroad group meeting a few years ago where this was discussed.  If you want to see thinly-veiled panic, mention self-driving trucks to a railroad executive.

As to this all, what probably needs to happen is that one of the Class Is needs to invest in a shortline with no regularly-used grade crossings (or at least, none that can't be closed) and run a trial/demonstration progam there.  If I had to pick one, Black Mesa and Lake Powell might be a decent choice since it isn't under FRA jurisdiction, is totally isolated from the national railroad network, etc.

Edited by Anderson

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On 1/3/2019 at 7:00 PM, CSXfoamer1997 said:

About train automation, what will happen if a train hits a car, breaks a coupler, or somehow goes into emergency? Who will go to inspect?

I think the answer is that you might be able to put a mechanic onboard as opposed to an engineer.  It would require a tangle of fighting with the union, but I suspect that reclassifying the driving employee as a mechanic with no direct operational duties (and dispensing with the conductor-and-engineer team) might actually gain some headway in the scheme of things.  Bear in mind that it is entirely plausible that a non-operating mechanic (e.g. he has no authority to actually operate the train, perhaps outside of certain narrow emergency situations, just to diagnose/inspect/repair) might even manage to get classified as being not subject to hours-of-service rules.  In the scheme of things, simply having a single car behind the locomotive(s) with a mechanic and a batch of spare parts and tools may prove to be more efficient than what you have now.

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