“We face the task of creating an unmanned transport system,” says Company CEO Oleg Belozerov
Russian Railways has held a scientific and technical council on its project to introduce an electric train management system capable of operating in automatic mode on the express Lastochka trains.
Taking part in the session, which was held by video, were representative from the RZD Holding, manufacturers of rolling stock and scientific and research organisations.
In his address, Oleg Belozerov, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Russian Railways, called the development of automatic vehicle management systems one of the world’s long-term trends.
“Research and testing on the Lastochka trains have been under way since 2017. During this time, a large amount of data has been generated and the basis for practical work laid. We stand before the task of creating an unmanned transport system, which enables the infrastructure and the train to interact in fully automatic mode with 100% safety and reliability,” said Oleg Belozerov.
“We need to solve a number of complex scientific, technical and technological tasks. We must ensure that we can implement the fourth – the highest – level of automation according to the international classification. At the same time, together with the authorities, it is necessary to develop a regulatory framework,” said Oleg Belozurov.
The Moscow Central Ring, which has seen the number of passengers increase by a third in the last three years to become one of Europe’s busiest railway lines, has been chosen as a testing ground for the development of self-driving technology.
When the Moscow Central Ring was launched, trains arrive at intervals of six minutes during rush hour, but the time is now down to every four minutes. To reduce the interval further, the automatic control of electric trains is necessary, which will reduce the risks of traffic safety violations due to human factors.
Currently, one of the Lastochka electric trains has already been equipped in accordance with the third Grade of Automation (GoA3), which includes automatic traffic control and stop, but it still requires human participation in closing/opening doors and managing emergency situations.
Positioning equipment has now been installed on the train so that it knows where it is on the rail infrastructure and which has a self-driving system and an obstacle detection unit while travelling, as well as equipment for communicating with the remote control centre.
A prototype of the operator’s workplace has also been developed and a neural network and a digital model of the Moscow Central Ring have been developed and tested. In unmanned mode, the Lastochka electric train is able to follow an energy-optimal timetable and automatically work out the braking and stop algorithms when it detects an obstacle.
At the fourth Grade of Automation (GoA4), the control system will carry out the train’s entire management, monitoring and diagnostics of onboard equipment, as well as open and close the doors automatically. At the same time, three control modes will be possible: the driver from the cockpit, remotely (from the workplace of the driver operator) and automatically.
“It is necessary to create completely new professions and simulators to train people to work in these new conditions,” said Oleg Belozerov. In particular, special training and training programmes will be developed for staff working with self-driving trains, while the relevant departments will be organised to train specialists in the field of unmanned technologies.
In the near future, the Russian Railways holding company, working closely with its partners, will develop design documentation for the Lastochka electric train’s automatic operation and approve standards in the field of mobile control in automatic mode.
Technical vision algorithms and remote-control software will be developed and tested, taking into account the increased security requirements with regard to information. Advanced Russian competency centres in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, specialised neural networks and other scientific fields are involved in the work.
Broadband LTE communication systems will also be deployed on the Moscow Central Ring’s infrastructure.