News & Reviews News Wire Autonomous rail vehicle project receives $4.4 million federal grant

Autonomous rail vehicle project receives $4.4 million federal grant

By Trains Staff | February 15, 2022

| Last updated on March 25, 2024

Funding for Parallel Systems will include testing at AAR’s TTCI facility

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Container moving independently on railroad track
A prototype of the Parallel Systems autonomous container rail system tests in Southern California. The company has received a new federal grant which will include a testing program. Parallel Systems

LOS ANGELES — Parallel Systems, the company seeking to build autonomous battery-powered intermodal rail vehicles, has received a $.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for the development of its technology.

The grant is part of the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, program, developed to advance high-potential, high-impact energy technologies. It will fund a 29-month testing program beginning in the second quarter of this year.

“Our mission is to decarbonize freight by building a cleaner, automated rail future,” Matt Soule, Parallel CEO and one of the three former SpaceX engineers who founded the company, said in a press release. “The funds awarded from the Department of Energy will help us achieve our mission by supporting Parallel through our advanced testing phase. This critical step will enable us to move trucking freight to clean rail and accelerate the decarbonization of the entire freight industry.”

Parallel unveiled its plans in January after raising more than $49 million to develop the battery-electric rail system. Union Pacific has expressed an interest in the technology [see “Union Pacific CEO signals interest …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 20, 2022].

As part of the grant, the Parallel Systems’ vehicles — self-powered wheelsets designed to carry containers — will be tested at by the Association of American Railroads’ Transportation Technology Center, Inc., in Pueblo, Colo. Parallel’s plans and implementation strategy will also be analyzed by the University of Illinois’ Rail Transportation and Engineering Center, and by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

15 thoughts on “Autonomous rail vehicle project receives $4.4 million federal grant

  1. So will every customer be required to build a siding to their facility or will the railroads or the government do it.
    The freight railroads won’t let Amtrak add a train to a route due to congestion problems and they are going to let containers run amuck everywhere?
    I’m assuming all switch points/sidings will be powered and the unit can unlock the switch and remove the derail device by themselves and spot the unit perfectly.

  2. Unsuspecting government. That’s what the entire Biden Administration is getting to be, if it already there. Now they are proposing to suspend the $0.18 federal gas tax for the rest of 2022. But they just handed a bucket of highway $$$ to the states as part of the IIJA that was meant to go strictly for the repair of roads in need of repair. Instead IL, for example, is about to binge-build interstate highway widening because the Biden Administration didn’t bother to strictly define how that money could be spent. Maybe somewhat off topic…

  3. “There’s a sucker born every minute” God bless P.T. Barnum. Sad that the suckers are going to spend our tax dollars on this joke.

  4. I can see this type of system to replace the final mile(s) drayage that limits the railroad intermodal market and may help with short mileage hauls.

    1. Wow, someone that understands the idea behind this proposal…apparently no one sees that you could conceivably replace door to door truck shipments with this system. Just run rail up to the back of every truck dock, the container comes right to the door, from ship to door without ever touching the ground.

    2. First off you would need a main line passing near every one of those companies. Next you would need an active switched siding for every one of those companies. At several hundred thousand dollars per switched siding it will never happen because “It does not increase investor equity”.

  5. Alternate headline: “Tech Bros Render Futuristic Solution to Non-Problem, Grift Millions from Unsuspecting Government”

    1. Excellent summary. I was thinking, what crazy idea can I dream up for a $4 million study?

  6. Does this mean that the entire country will become a giant hump yard?

    As I look at that photo I can imagine a 250-car-long, double-stacked train waiting patiently behind.

  7. Will this light single car reliably trigger the current signalling system? How will this system handle many of these cars in the same block? What happens when the power in one car dies and the car coasts to a halt, blocking the line?

    May be good for a dedicated new track built for these cars, but integrated into the current rail system? All these answers should be resolved very quickly to avoid spending time and money on a doomed project.

    1. It’s also proposed to be able to run in multiple units, linked together probably electronically and not mechanically.

You must login to submit a comment