Unmanned electric cars are very advanced? The train has already done it.

March 06, 2021

Abstract On October 14th, according to Bloomberg News, Tesla and Google's driverless car division Waymo may be planning for future cars, but in terms of innovation, the railway industry is far ahead. The aviation industry and the automotive industry are all actively discussing unmanned travel and...

On October 14th, according to Bloomberg News, Tesla and Google's driverless car division Waymo may be planning for future cars, but in terms of innovation, the railway industry is far ahead.


Both the aviation industry and the automotive industry are enthusiastically discussing driverless travel and electric propulsion. At first glance they seem to be the leader in transportation technology. However, train manufacturers around the world are introducing innovative technologies for cars and aircraft, which may take years to achieve in cars and aircraft. The train company's top executives recently gathered at the biennial International Rail Transit Technology Expo (Innotrans) in Berlin to showcase a future that is already happening. Here are some of the highlights:

Driverless taxi

Google's Waymo auto-driving car technology will not be available until next year, and unmanned passenger aircraft will take years to set sail. However, in dozens of subway and tram systems, autonomous trains have been introduced and their operation does not conflict with other services in the system. These public transport systems include London's Docklands Light Rail, Paris's subway, and the world's busiest Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport passenger transport system.

This industry has not stopped there. In July of this year, Australian mining giant Rio Tinto used the technology of Ansaldo STS from Italy to transport about 28,000 tons of iron ore through the Australian outback with unmanned trains. Port of Lambert Point, a total of more than 280 kilometers. The train was remotely monitored by operators at Rio Tinto Operations Center in Perth, 1,500 miles away. The company plans to put into use 200 train locomotives without drivers by the end of this year.

The French National Railways (SNCF) pledged last month that it will launch its own fully-automated freight trains by 2021 and launch unmanned passenger services in central Paris by 2023.

Configuring the battery

Although Tesla and Nissan are making some progress, even in their largest market, sales of electric vehicles account for only a small fraction of total car sales. In contrast, many railway networks have been electrified decades ago and are focused on reducing emissions at the remaining routes outside the rail network. Some electric locomotives are equipped with small diesel engines to reach cargo terminals not far from the main line, but manufacturers are increasingly considering configuring batteries to complete the “last mile” operation.

Bombardier's new electric train Talent 3 is even more ambitious, and the model is partly funded by the German government. It can be charged with wires and can run for only 40 kilometers (about 25 miles). This cruising range will be extended to 100 kilometers. If this range is exceeded, the battery weight will be a problem; the existing train's battery has already weighed 2 metric tons. The model will compete with Coradia iLint, a hydrogen fuel cell train launched by Alstom SA two years ago at the Innotrans Expo. Talent 3 has the advantage of using off-the-shelf technology, but once the fuel cell is fully commercialized, the cost of Coradia iLint may drop even faster.

In the diesel-led freight market, more streamlined engines are emerging. General Electric is known for providing locomotives for some of the world's heaviest freight trains. It uses the stage of the Innotrans Expo to showcase a smaller, faster engine that aims to tap into a market segment that it has been evading. General Electric also installed batteries on some of its locomotives for use in areas where minimum power is required or where exhaust emissions are critical.


Photo: Bombardier's Talent 3 train

Intelligent train

Predictive maintenance is very common in the aviation industry. In this industry, jet engines need to transmit real-time status reports. This technology is also increasingly being used in the rail industry, from scanners that identify wear track areas and transmit position information, to grinders, to air conditioners that calculate the number of people per car by monitoring changing CO2 levels. .

The GE locomotive transmits data on 200 parameters that are primarily related to engine performance, so engineers can determine what needs to be repaired the next time they go into the shop and arrange for the parts to arrive ahead of time.

The US company said that the use of "big data" may eventually bring an air traffic control system to the rail industry. In the freight industry, that means taking over from the arrival of the goods at the port, collecting information on different goods, determining the best locomotive options and optimal freight routes, taking responsibility for the itinerary itself, and notifying relevant authorities such as customs authorities and end customers. square.

Relieve traffic

The new Caravaggio commuter train from Hitachi, known for its Shinkansen bullet trains, will serve cities such as Bologna and Milan, seeking to increase the speed while taking more commuters. The train features a two-tier layout that combines a lightweight alloy construction with traction on the roof to create more interior space. The six-car train can accommodate 750 people and the acceleration can be as fast as the subway.


Figure: Caravaggio's new commuter train from Hitachi

Highly touted super high-speed rail

The industry still has doubts about disruptive technologies such as magnetic levitation. The French National Railways invested in the most famous magnetic levitation project, Hyperloop One, but it said it is more interested in the company's model of innovation and cooperation, rather than any real-time application on the French railway network. The system is based on the concept of "Hyperloop" first proposed by Tesla's CEO Elon Musk and is now awarded by the famous British billionaire Richard Branson. Funding. It transports passengers and cargo quickly through a pipeline system with a speed of 700 kilometers per hour. The French National Railways believes that it may work in the prototype phase, but there is no evidence that it can transport an ocean container from Le Havre to Paris every 20 seconds.


Figure: 2018 Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, XP-1 Cabin from Virgin Hyperloop One

Faster and faster


Figure: On September 19th, Siemens' Velaro Novo high-speed train was exhibited at the Innotrans Expo.

While the rail industry is increasingly focusing on gas emissions and operational efficiency, increasing the maximum speed remains a major theme. At present, traditional trains occupy a dominant position. Siemens AG showcased its Velaro Novo concept car: a new generation of high-speed trains with a speed of 360 km/h (224 mph), significantly higher than the current 300 km/h speed standard, expected to be in 2023 launch to market.


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