Image: SNCF / Laurent Mayeux

ATO prototype prepared for two-year trial in France

SNCF and several partners are fine-tuning the operating system of an ATO train prototype, after which  a two-year trial phase will start. The Regio 2N train with GoA2 will operate on the railway net in Northern France. The French national operator works with Alstom, Bosch, Spirops, Thales and the Railenium Technology Research Institute in the project. 

The series of trials take place to fine-tune the operating system of an ATO train prototype take place from 17 to 21 May. After the trials on the national railway network at Busigny, a two year trial phase will start in the same area. The semi-autonomous operation makes it possible to automate the acceleration and braking of the train, supervised by a driver. These trials are a key step towards achieving the consortium’s ultimate objective: achieving full autonomy by 2023.

Improving detection

For two years, the train will be tested on the track between Aulnoye and Busigny, during the school holidays. Outside the research and test periods, the train will be in regular commercial service, transporting passengers.

During these regular trips in conventional driving mode, the train will record data that will improve the performance of the signal recognition algorithms. For example,  by detecting the colour of the traffic lights and the surrounding environment of the train. At the same time, laboratory work is being carried out on trial simulators at the sites of all the consortium partners to fine-tune the itineraries of the test train and further develop the automated system.

Modified train

At the start of the year, the Regio 2N regional train was modified and equipped for the purpose of the trials by the Alstom site in Crespin (formerly Bombardier). Various sensors, cameras, radars and lidars (laser detection) were fitted to collect essential data for the project.

The first trials took place over one week in the beginning of March, between Aulnoye and Busigny and between Busigny and Calais (in the North of France). The train prototype ran on a commercial track, with the project’s engineers and technicians on board. The trials included tests of the perception and recognition systems for the signals located along the track, and the geolocation system, particularly by satellite, which provides the precise position of the train.Image: SNCF / Laurent Mayeux

During this first phase of trials, the sensors and equipment of these new systems were activated to observe how they work. They did not interfere with the movement of the train. The train was driven by an SNCF driver specialised in operating under test conditions. At the end of this week of trials, tests were conducted at the CEF railway test centre in Petite-Forêt, near Valenciennes. There, the train’s autonomous operation system was tested, which makes it possible to automate the acceleration and braking of the train.

Authorisation

The trials are authorised by the French National Railway Safety Authority (EPSF). The goal is to help substantiate the safety demonstration required for the train’s future authorisation to operate. As an observer in the project, EPSF will be in a position to assess the understanding of the technologies developed. Also, the impact on the railway system will be assessed, as well as any possible regulatory changes needing to be made for this new type of operation.

Cybersecurity issues have been taken into consideration from the start of the project. The project partners are working closely with ANSSI (Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information), the French national cybersecurity authority.

“Our project has just passed a significant milestone with great success”, said Pierre Izard, Director of Technology, Innovation and Group Projects of SNCF Group. “Another step has been taken towards achieving autonomy in rail. The mobilisation of the SNCF teams and of our partners allows us to explore all the issues, both human and technological.”

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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