Unmanned passenger train on tracks in Moscow

Lastochka train in Moscow, source: Russian Railways (RZD)

The first automated passenger train was rolled out on the Moscow Central Circle, a railway line that encompasses the city. Russian Railways (RZD) plans to perform a series of tests with obstacles. It is expected that the unmanned trains will start to carry passengers in 2021.

RZD started the test drives of the Lastochka automated train at Cherkizovo railway station of the Moscow Central Circle earlier this week. The trials are performed with a driver that is present in a cab and only monitors all the processes. As the Moscow City News Agency reported, the railway company intends to examine how the vehicle breaks and stops when running on a mainline in the emergency cases, for instance, after detecting an obstacle on tracks. To do this, the rolling stock manufacturer Ural Locomotives, a joint venture of Siemens Mobility and Sinara Group, equipped the Lastochka trainsets with computer vision.

Target for 2021

Russian Railways launched the project on the Automatic Train Operation (ATO) in 2017. Initially, JSC NIIAS, the company’s research division, equipped three shunting locomotives with sensors, cameras and other technologies that are necessary for the unmanned traffic. After the successful tests, RZD decided to try the technology on passenger trains. To this end, the Lastochka vehicle was chosen. In late August 2019, it performed the first self-driving trip on the Shcherbinka railway test ring in the surrounds of Moscow.

Next year the railway operator plans to put the Lastochka trains with computer vision into regular service on the Moscow Central Circle. They will run by using the ATO technology of the Grade of Automation (GoA) 2. This means that the train will speed up and brake automatically. At the same time, a train driver will be present in the cab for monitoring these operations and interventing during the emergency cases.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

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

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