Finland set to test autonomous rail freight transport

A project to develop an autonomous industrial rail freight service in Finland is set to enter the development and verification phase after receiving funding.

The project, led by the Finnish rail operator Proxion, aims to develop a short-distance autonomous transport system that should reduce CO2 emissions and improve safety.

The system will control an autonomous train that’s battery-powered, with a range of up to 20km at 20km/h. The train will be powered by two 100kW engines, heaving up to 300 tonnes in a fixed configuration.

Principal scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Petri Mononen, explains, “It is important to ensure that the autonomous train operates reliably in all conditions and on a wide range of track connections. It is a leap towards safer railway transport. For example, sensor interpretation technology for the train unit is being developed as is combining a thermal camera and radar observations in order to be able to react correctly and in time to any obstacles or situations ahead.”

The project was first launched in August 2018, with the concept phase and preliminary studies completed in 2020. Between 2021 and 2022, the development and simulation phases are set to take place, where software and equipment will be tested, simulated, and test-driven. The pilot phase of the project is set to launch in 2023.

Photo: Proxion