Remote-controlled shunting on tests in Switzerland

An obstacle detection system is being tested on tracks in Switzerland. It enables to control the shunting operations from a remote location. If the trials will be successful, the solution will be mounted on SBB’s locomotives on a regular basis to substantially enhance shunting.

Swiss operator SBB Cargo is examining the Assisted Remote Shunting system for obstacle detection, which was developed by Israeli startup Rail Vision. The tests are being carried out in a partnership with Knorr-Bremse that is planning to mount the system on SBB Cargo’s locomotives and Schweizer Electronic that delivered an add-on remote control to the solution. According to the schedule, the partners will complete the trials at the end of the first quarter of 2021. Afterwards, the solution could be installed in all shunting locomotives of SBB Cargo.

Technical aspects

The Assisted Remote Shunting system is based on electro-optic sensors, artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies for detecting and classifying obstacles on and along rail tracks. With their help, the system monitors switches and recognises signals and paths up to 200 meters ahead. Once an obstacle is detected, the system analyses and classifies it. When a warning is needed, it sends both visual and acoustic alerts to the driver, and optionally also to the Command & Control Centre.

Operational efficiency

In addition, the solution allows rail operators to control shunting operations from a remote location and only with a single person. Today, by contrast, shunting generally takes two people: a locomotive driver and a signaler, who notifies of any possible obstacles and the remaining distance to other vehicles to the driver via radio from outside. The innovation comes at a crucial time, as several operators are expecting staffing crunches in the medium term. “As several cargo operators are anticipating personnel shortages in the coming years, Rail Vision’s products can contribute to increasing operational efficiency after a more widespread rollout,” said Andreas Hefti, Managing Director at Knorr-Bremse Switzerland.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

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

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