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Old Posted Jan 19, 2022, 10:10 PM
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Autonomous battery-powered freight rail cars

Autonomous battery-powered rail cars could steal shipments from truckers
Advances in batteries, autonomy could extend the reach of freight railroads.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2022/01...ric-rail-cars/

For the last 200 years, freight trains haven’t changed much; massive locomotives still move relatively dumb freight cars. Certainly, rail fans could argue that plenty has changed—they’re not wrong!—but from a distance, trains work pretty much the same today as they did in the 1800s.

That may change, though, if three former SpaceX engineers have placed their bets properly. Today, their startup, Parallel Systems, has emerged from stealth mode with a prototype vehicle that promises to bring advances in autonomy and battery technology to the relatively staid world of freight railroads. In the process, they hope to not just electrify existing routes but also bring freight rail service to places that don’t have it today.

Whether their bet pays off will hinge on whether freight railroads and their customers will buy into a new way of operating. Parallel Systems isn’t just taking an existing freight train and swapping its diesel-electric locomotive for a battery version. Instead, it’s taking the traction motors and distributing them to every car on the train. It’s how many electric passenger trains operate, but it's a system that has been slow to migrate to the freight world.

Parallel Systems is going a step further, though. Each of its rail vehicles consists of a battery pack, electric motors, four wheels, and a package of sensors that allow it to operate autonomously. And since a large portion of the world’s freight is shipped via 20-foot containers, Parallel Systems is using the containers themselves to complete the car, bridging the gap between the sets of wheels at either end of a train car, also known as bogies.



Platoons of autonomous freight rail cars could be a game changer in the shipping industry. I do not trust autonomous vehicles on a road or highway mixed in with human driven vehicles as near much as I would autonomous rail cars on dedicated tracks. If it is taken up by the industry, it could lead to job loses in trucking, which is not the best. On the other hand, it could reduce the number of very heavy vehicles that create a lot of the wear and tear of road infrastructure. It would also help to reduce pollution since less trucks would be on the road. Then maybe add in some new smaller (hopefully electric) trucks/vans that could do the last-mile delivery from distribution centers to final destinations.

Sounds like a great idea to explore. I hope it works well and as intended.
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Old Posted Jan 19, 2022, 11:13 PM
MAC123 MAC123 is offline
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Interesting. I look forward to seeing more tests of this tech in the future, have they partnered with any big rail companies for backing, or is that future plans?
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Old Posted Jan 19, 2022, 11:23 PM
k1052 k1052 is offline
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About the only thing I could see this working for is to shuttle containers from on dock rail to an inland port along a defined, dedicated corridor. There is no way in hell the Class 1s would let these things loose on their mainlines even if the regulators said ok (which they will not).
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Old Posted Jan 19, 2022, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k1052 View Post
There is no way in hell the Class 1s would let these things loose on their mainlines even if the regulators said ok (which they will not).
And why wouldn't they?
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Old Posted Jan 21, 2022, 7:09 PM
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Old Posted Jan 21, 2022, 8:26 PM
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Old Posted Jan 25, 2022, 8:13 AM
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They might have a small role in niche applications however that video and it's creator are spot on as always. Still I say let a hundred flowers bloom or 100 electric transit startups flourish....
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