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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Alstom demonstrates autonomous operation of switcher in Europe

Alstom demonstrates autonomous operation of switcher in Europe

By | December 1, 2022

Netherlands test combines Automatic Train Operation with obstacle detection system

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Two people in high visibility vests observing switch engine
European switch engine with various detection gear on front
Alstom has demonstrated fully autonomous operation of a switching locomotive in the Netherlands. Alstom photo

BREDA, Netherlands — Alstom says it has demonstrated fully autonomous operation for a switching locomotive in the Netherlands — with starting, movement, stopping, and handling of unexpected obstacles without involvement of on-train staff.

The company says this week’s announcement concludes a series of tests that are part of a partnership with Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail and Belgian freight operator Lineas to combine Alstom’s Automatic Train Operation system with obstacle detection and recognition system. It paves the way, Alstom says, for broader use of autonomous operation in switching.

Two people in high visibility vests observing switch engine
Alstom staff members observe the switch engine in action. Alstom photo

“By integrating advanced obstacle detection into our autonomous driving systems, we have shown that it possible to make trains ‘see’ ahead and cope safely with the unexpected.,” Stéphane Féray-Beaumont, vice-president of innovation and smart mobility at Alstom, said in a press release. “The positive results prove that Alstom possesses the technology required to support operators with autonomous driving technologies that will ultimately improve the operational performance on freight lines.”

The test saw a Lineas diesel-hydralic locomotive equipped with Alstom’s ATO system and the high-resolution digital radar obstacle detection and recognition system, or ODS, developed by Elta Systems’ NIART by Elta. Running autonomously, the locomotive was presented with obstacles ranging from a person to a vehicle to a railcar to an incorrectly positioned switch, and reacted correctly without intervention of staff aboard, with the ODS effective up to 500 meters away.

7 thoughts on “Alstom demonstrates autonomous operation of switcher in Europe

  1. Europe is already in the process of the beginning stages of converting all railcars to fully automatic coupling/uncoupling…there will be ZERO need for any manual connections what so ever. Combine this automatic switching with automatic couplers…and the result is? No crews on the ground.

  2. It is funny that they pursuing technology like this but still use a coupling system that was outdated 130 years ago…

  3. This was the easy part. Now can it take a switch list and actually assemble a train from multiple yard tracks without human intervention? I doubt it.

  4. The switcher may operate autonomously but, in the Netherlands, like Europe in general, all coupling and uncoupling must be accomplished manually. I really don’t see the advantage of this technology over belt-pack ops.

    1. Seems to me the hotshot techies at Alstom are looking to change that “all coupling and uncoupling must be accomplished manually” rule. The goal none of those techie folks will publicly own up to is to put all the train crews out on the street.

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