On 9 June, as part of its chairmanship of the International Union of Railways International Council for Railway Research, Russian Railways hosted an international webinar, “Technologies for autonomous guidance in railway transport: anticipating expectations”, dedicated to current issues, challenges and complex tasks to be solved in the field of rail automation. More than 400 representatives from railway companies and research and educational institutions in the field of railway transport from all over the world took part in the webinar.
Companies from Australia, the United States, China, France and Russia, including those that took part in the international Shift2Rail partnership for the modernisation of European rail, presented best practices in developing autonomous railway transport, designing and operating next-generation equipment, and predictions for future research and technological development in this area.
It was noted that unmanned trains are successfully used in subways, light rail and airports around the world; however, for mainline railways, particularly those with mixed (freight and passenger) traffic, there are many engineering, technological and legal issues to be resolved.
Russia presented its project for automated electric trains along the Moscow Central Circle. Two electric Lastochka trains have already been equipped in accordance with the third level of automation (GoA3), which includes automatic movement and stoppage control but requires human participation in closing and opening doors and in emergency situations. The trains are equipped with positioning equipment with an automatic guidance system and an obstacle detection unit on the track, as well as equipment for communicating with the remote control centre. In unmanned mode, the electric train is able to follow the energy-optimal schedule and can automatically calculate braking and stopping algorithms when an obstacle is detected.
To date, the Lastochkas have passed around 2,000 tests in motion under various weather conditions.
At the fourth level of automation (GoA4), the control system will perform the entire range of train management, monitor and diagnose on-board equipment and automatically open and close doors. Three modes will be controlled by the driver from the cab, both remotely (from the train driver’s workstation) and automatically.