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Lastochka autonomous train on Shcherbinka railway test ring, source: Sinara Group

Russian autonomous train makes first test run

The first Russian autonomous train has made its initial trial run on the Shcherbinka railway test ring in the environs of Moscow. During the short trip, an emergency situation was examined. The vehicle automatically stopped after detecting a dummy lying on the tracks.

For Russian Railways, this trial run is the first step in implementing the Automated Train Operation (ATO). It was performed on Thursday, 29 August, during the PRO//Motion.Expo railway trade fair. The Lastochka train equipped with ATO has transported the railway top managers and officials including CEO of Russian Railways Oleg Belozyorov and the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Maxim Akimov.

“Today is a historic day for Russian Railways, we have got closer to the unmanned technology. Russian Railways strives for implementing the self-driving technology, primarily because it will provide an improved level of safety and reliability of transportation, especially for passengers,” Oleg Belozyorov said.

Computer vision

In June the Lastochka electric train was equipped with the ultrasonic sensors and video cameras to provide computer vision. The technology was developed and installed by the experts of Russian Railways, JSC NIIAS and Ural Locomotives. The train positioning system allows the vehicle to brake smoothly at the station and to stop automatically at the exact place with an accuracy of up to 50 centimetres. The automated Lastochka vehicle can be controlled automatically from the cab by the train driver or from the control centre by the traffic controller. CEO of Ural Locomotives Oleg Spai noted the train positioning system and computer vision are the initial stages fro introducing the ATO. The development team will test and monitor the technology for several months. Afterwards, the obtained results will be used to improve the algorithms.

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Computer vision of Lastochka autonomous train, source: Sinara Group

Computer vision of Lastochka autonomous train, source: Sinara Group.

Currently, Ural Locomotives has already equipped 30 Lastochka trains running on the Moscow Central Circle with positioning system. By the year’s end, 20 more vehicles will receive the same technology. It will use to correct the train braking at the railway stations. The passenger transportation by the autonomous trains is not planned at this stage. However, Russian Railways intends to implement the ATO in the future. This will change the role of train drivers. “Their functionality will change a little but the monitoring of the systems will remain for the man,” CEO of Russian Railways Oleg Belozyorov stressed.

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Test run of Lastochka autonomous train, source: Russian Railways (RZD)

Test run of Lastochka autonomous train, source: Russian Railways (RZD).

Lastochka trains

The Lastochka (‘Swallow’ in Russian) electric multiple unit is based on the Desiro train family developed by Siemens Mobility. Initially, the first vehicles of this type were produced at the Siemens facility in Krefeld, Germany. In 2013 Siemens Mobility and Sinara Group established Ural Locomotives, a joint venture to produce passenger trains and locomotives. More than 200 Lastochka trains were manufactured at the facility. All of them run in Russia serving the intercity routes between Moscow and the major cities.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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