DB Cargo has been testing an unmanned freight locomotive at Siemens’ test track in Wildenrath. And according to Asset Strategy Vice President Miroslav Obrenovic, it aims to have automatic hump-shunting locomotives (Class 290s) under test within 12 months.
It also plans to automate the operation of a yard in Munich, in conjunction with infrastructure owner DB Netz.
This ambition demands not just ATO locomotives, but also wagons that are able to measure and report their condition, including load and location. Whether or not wagons will have automatic couplers remains to be seen. For true automation they should have, but DB’s video of its Wildenrath trials included a traditional shunter coupling the driverless locomotive to its train.
The locomotive in DB’s trial was controlled from a tablet computer which, at first sight, makes it appear a remotely controlled locomotive. However, sensors on the locomotive were measuring the distance between it and the wagons it was approaching, with brakes applied accordingly. This counts as GoA4 (see panel, page 72).
The work is part of the EU’s Shift2Rail project and looks to develop automated freight trains. It aims to reduce lead time, increase reliability and cost-effectiveness.