Problems running autonomous trains

 
  bengt Station Master

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Rio Tinto appears to have problems with running trains with autonomous locomotives. Probably there is more than one problem but what is the major problem?

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  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
They don't have drivers would be a good start.
There are costs of operation and when there are umpteen thousand tons of loading in hundreds of wagons on a train a driver is a cost of operation.
  M636C Minister for Railways

Rio Tinto appears to have problems with running trains with autonomous locomotives. Probably there is more than one problem but what is the major problem?
bengt
It is a lot more complicated than it looks.

Many years ago I said that I'd go to a hill at the bottom of the 2% grade with a cooler full of soft drink and film the first Autohaul train negotiating the curve and level crossing there.

Autohaul has been imminent for about ten years.

I watched a trainee driver take a Mt Newman train down the equivalent grade to Garden. His driver was instructing, he'd been down the grade hundreds of times but the operation of the air brakes alone had him terrified with 25 000 tons of train involved.

In theory you should be able to automate the driving of Pilbara Iron Ore trains. The parameters involved have been recorded for at least forty years to my knowledge.

Nothing is as easy as it looks and complex IT tasks are notoriously late and frequently cost much more than budgeted.

I'm told it has cost more than $500 Million so far.

M636C
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
As the trains got longer and heavier and the mining boom ended as did the short demand for drivers and put the brakes on their rising salary the cost per tonne for the driver has diminished.

They now have cars driving on the road with level 4 automation and even computers telling drivers they are main mistakes etc. I just watched a TV show where a Tesla car changed lanes and drive across the harbour bridge in full automation.

Overall I suspect the road blocks are minor but RIO board are growing tied of the never ending spin from the IT nerds when the cost per tonne benefit is minimal and unlikely to every pay for the Capital and project funding too date.

I sat in a meeting by automation with RIO to hear about this "amazung" project and
extension to other parts of the buisness in 2007. I told them then that I believe in automation and train automation is hardly new but I will be surprised if the actual saving of removing the sole person on a 20,000t will ever pay for the development cost. One accident due to automation and you will blow the savings for next 20 years. The response was drivers wages are rising and getting harder to employ. Times have changed.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
I agree re the complexity, cost and time overruns for so many (all ?) IT projects.

So many of these seem to start out as 'wouldn't it be a good idea to.....' and it runs away from there as any ideas (realistic or otherwise) to the contrary would be deemed negative and take a brave person to voice them. I sometimes wonder at the wonderful gee whizz safeworking that ARTC is buying is not another of these projects. Just look at IBM and the recent census!

$500,000,000 would buy you 2,000 drivers for one year and, whilst I have no idea how many drivers Rio needs for its operations the upkeep/maintenance on the IT systems has to be added to the capital cost. Some systems can rival the cost of the operation that they are supposed to replace. How many drivers could be employed for the same cost as some of the 'big wheel IT gunzels' to develop and run the thing?

These wonderful IT projects have their place but I don't believe that this one of them.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
As the trains got longer and heavier and the mining boom ended as did the short demand for drivers and put the brakes on their rising salary the cost per tonne for the driver has diminished.

They now have cars driving on the road with level 4 automation and even computers telling drivers they are main mistakes etc. I just watched a TV show where a Tesla car changed lanes and drive across the harbour bridge in full automation.

Overall I suspect the road blocks are minor but RIO board are growing tied of the never ending spin from the IT nerds when the cost per tonne benefit is minimal and unlikely to every pay for the Capital and project funding too date.

I sat in a meeting by automation with RIO to hear about this "amazung" project and
extension to other parts of the buisness in 2007. I told them then that I believe in automation and train automation is hardly new but I will be surprised if the actual saving of removing the sole person on a 20,000t will ever pay for the development cost. One accident due to automation and you will blow the savings for next 20 years. The response was drivers wages are rising and getting harder to employ. Times have changed.
RTT_Rules
We do not agree on some things RTT_Rules but how well this post puts the position.

'....never ending spin from the IT nerds. '

' One accident due to automation and you will blow the savings for next 20 years.'

Oh how true!!!!!!!!!Smile

Why is it that these high flying business brains are so easily sucked into schemes that any practical old railwayman wouldn't touch with a shunting pole? Rolling Eyes
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

Why is it that these high flying business brains are so easily sucked into schemes that any practical old railwayman wouldn't touch with a shunting pole? Rolling Eyes
YM-Mundrabilla
Avarice
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Why is it that these high flying business brains are so easily sucked into schemes that any practical old railwayman wouldn't touch with a shunting pole? Rolling Eyes
Avarice
Lockspike
Avarice definitely.
Arrogance, self aggrandisement, ignorance, isolation from all practical reality.
Surrounded by sycophants.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
computers telling drivers they are main mistakes
RTT_Rules
If the computer in my car ever tells me that I am a mistake, I'll smash it! Smile
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

computers telling drivers they are main mistakes
If the computer in my car ever tells me that I am a mistake, I'll smash it! Smile
Graham4405
Unless the computer is made of the black box material, I'm sure you will smash it. Along with three other cars, a man walking his dog and an old lady's lounge room.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
As the trains got longer and heavier and the mining boom ended as did the short demand for drivers and put the brakes on their rising salary the cost per tonne for the driver has diminished.

They now have cars driving on the road with level 4 automation and even computers telling drivers they are main mistakes etc. I just watched a TV show where a Tesla car changed lanes and drive across the harbour bridge in full automation.

Overall I suspect the road blocks are minor but RIO board are growing tied of the never ending spin from the IT nerds when the cost per tonne benefit is minimal and unlikely to every pay for the Capital and project funding too date.

I sat in a meeting by automation with RIO to hear about this "amazung" project and
extension to other parts of the buisness in 2007. I told them then that I believe in automation and train automation is hardly new but I will be surprised if the actual saving of removing the sole person on a 20,000t will ever pay for the development cost. One accident due to automation and you will blow the savings for next 20 years. The response was drivers wages are rising and getting harder to employ. Times have changed.
We do not agree on some things RTT_Rules but how well this post puts the position.

'....never ending spin from the IT nerds. '

' One accident due to automation and you will blow the savings for next 20 years.'

Oh how true!!!!!!!!!Smile

Why is it that these high flying business brains are so easily sucked into schemes that any practical old railwayman wouldn't touch with a shunting pole? Rolling Eyes
YM-Mundrabilla
No problem but I'll be clear this is for freight train workings, Metro system with sub 5min timetable, no Automation is no issue.

For every train driver removed there is probably 10-20% behind the scenes replacement maintaining the system as well as the train Supervisors based in Perth monitoring a number of trains.

To me, loading and unloading, automate, mainline operations, a single driver controlling 20,000t, is not a cost worth chasing. Even on the east coast the interest by QR to remove the 2nd driver in the coal network despite the general freighters being single driver has not been a priority. Nor the 2nd driver on the ARTC network, I'm sure that person will eventually go, but compared to the Pilbra, you do have to wonder why are they trying so hard to remove such a tiny cost.

In the aluminium side RIO was trialing automated crane operations to tender the aluminium producing pots, after 10 years they parked the project up, bigger fish to fry. RIO has a number of high cost projects in its cupboard they would have liked to forget, I'm sure this is another one.
  sar602 Chief Train Controller

Location: Nomadic truckie
I heard they were having issues with the 4G network dropping out and trains going into emergency or something along those lines, im sure Toad could fill us in. The billions they've spent on this stupid thing could of paid a lot of drivers, all to make us humans obsolete cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

I heard they were having issues with the 4G network dropping out and trains going into emergency or something along those lines, im sure Toad could fill us in. The billions they've spent on this stupid thing could of paid a lot of drivers, all to make us humans obsolete cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
sar602
Don't they already have driver less trucks in the mines themselves?
  M636C Minister for Railways

I heard they were having issues with the 4G network dropping out and trains going into emergency or something along those lines, im sure Toad could fill us in. The billions they've spent on this stupid thing could of paid a lot of drivers, all to make us humans obsolete cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
Don't they already have driver less trucks in the mines themselves?
nswtrains
Indeed they do.

Superficially it would seem harder to control a mining truck than a train but apparently not...

The mining trucks have been running for years, the trains not so much....

M636C
  sar602 Chief Train Controller

Location: Nomadic truckie
Yes I know the haul trucks are already automated I meant interstate trucking etc.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Driverless trains in the Pilbara - a failed solution to a problem that didn't exist.
A failed ego trip for someone.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Yep, the someone who's just become the new CEO of Aurizon
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Yep, the someone who's just become the new CEO of Aurizon
Sulla1
Are they chickens on the horizon coming home to Rio?
Another 457 visa?
  Big J Assistant Commissioner

Location: In Paradise
I heard they were having issues with the 4G network dropping out and trains going into emergency or something along those lines, im sure Toad could fill us in. The billions they've spent on this stupid thing could of paid a lot of drivers, all to make us humans obsolete cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
sar602
Bingo!

This is the difference between this idea and the auto trucks at the mine, where they can set up permanent comms, with low risk of breakage of the links. Along the rail lines of NW I would think that would be challenging to ensure that secure, stable signals are achieved along their rail network.

I am aware that can be achieved, but that is a big investment.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
..... cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
sar602
This isn't too far away. Cars are in the final stages of testing and approval. My neighbours son in law works for Google in US and spend all day sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no driver in traffic in California fine tuning the control system. Dubai has a demonstration car on a 700m section of road that people can try for free. Tesla is pretty much there now.

Urber might have kicked the guts out of the taxi industry, but by 2025 neither will likely be around. Small, local deliveries will follow not far behind.

From what I've read and been told, expect automated trucks on the Hume Hwy plying between Capitals by 2030.
  lkernan Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
..... cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
This isn't too far away. Cars are in the final stages of testing and approval. My neighbours son in law works for Google in US and spend all day sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no driver in traffic in California fine tuning the control system. Dubai has a demonstration car on a 700m section of road that people can try for free. Tesla is pretty much there now.
RTT_Rules

They're getting there but some roadblocks still.

Google's car requires some very very detailed mapping to be done before it can drive a road.  Basically the whole kerb, road surface, etc mapped very precisely.  I haven't seen reports of how it goes in a previously unmapped area or a place not on it's hard drive.

Tesla's current version is ok on the highway where it can follow the white line or car in front.  The next version can also handle offramps.  just don't expect one to drive safely through a residential area on it's own for a while yet.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
From what I've read and been told, expect automated trucks on the Hume Hwy plying between Capitals by 2030.
RTT_Rules
A couple of questions RTT,

Does what you've read and been told factor in the two political forces of:
- Truck driver 'unions'/associations looking to keep their members in jobs
- The public not wanting to see ~45+ tonnes of fast moving weight at 110kph without a human as at least a safety switch?

Also, does that mean door to door automated trucks, or will they have a first/last mile impact where they need a driver to get in and out of facilities?
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
..... cant wait for driverless trucks not! just think of the affect that will have on the rail industry!
This isn't too far away. Cars are in the final stages of testing and approval. My neighbours son in law works for Google in US and spend all day sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no driver in traffic in California fine tuning the control system. Dubai has a demonstration car on a 700m section of road that people can try for free. Tesla is pretty much there now.

They're getting there but some roadblocks still.

Google's car requires some very very detailed mapping to be done before it can drive a road.  Basically the whole kerb, road surface, etc mapped very precisely.  I haven't seen reports of how it goes in a previously unmapped area or a place not on it's hard drive.

Tesla's current version is ok on the highway where it can follow the white line or car in front.  The next version can also handle offramps.  just don't expect one to drive safely through a residential area on it's own for a while yet.
lkernan
Obviously alot closer than 5 years ago and in 5 years they will be ALOT closer than now. I suspect for all the reasons you state and more that seeing this happen in suburbia, mmmm. LONG WAY yet. Hwy of certain standards, from on ramp to off ramp, I think this is close and probably the bulk of the demand anyway.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
From what I've read and been told, expect automated trucks on the Hume Hwy plying between Capitals by 2030.
A couple of questions RTT,

Does what you've read and been told factor in the two political forces of:
- Truck driver 'unions'/associations looking to keep their members in jobs
- The public not wanting to see ~45+ tonnes of fast moving weight at 110kph without a human as at least a safety switch?

Also, does that mean door to door automated trucks, or will they have a first/last mile impact where they need a driver to get in and out of facilities?
james.au
I know the detailed answers and I suspect most don't, but consider this

1) Sydney is about to follow the lead of dozens of cities world wide with automated/driverless commuter trains. The Rio Tinto Project effectively was about the same thing, but in the public domain (remote one at that). What are the truck drivers/Union going to do?

2) The public is well aware of the truck driver issues on the interstate hwy's especially at night and if you want to be scared from driving on the hwy ever again, get a UHF and listen to channel 40.

I suspect if or is it when it happens the main focus will be on depo to depo and hwy only as the conditions are more predictable and free ways are basically a controlled access corridor. Many/most interstate trucks do not do last mile in the major centres because B-doubles etc are banned from such locations. They go to a Depo to break down the contents or drop off a trailer.  

The reason I said previously the Hume hwy and not Pacific is because its dual carriage way the whole way. I think (for now at least) it would not occur on minor corridors or roads not built to certain standards. However I will say I heard that comment about B-doubles when they were first introduced. A B-double or road train at 100km/hr has about as much short notice maneuvering and braking capacity as a train so really not for the driver to do but hang on and ride it out.  

As for timing who knows, but I suspect if I live to a ripe old age, the major hwy's of Australia will be full of automated vehicles without a driver. Remember 10 years ago most of us had a mobile phone that didn't have a colour screen, the internet, video chat, Maps and driver instructions to go almost anywhere in the world and now they know more about us than our partners.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
A bit ambiguous, but maybe back on track?

http://bulkhandlingreview.com/rios-autonomous-trains-nearing-the-station/

November 2, 2016

A delayed bid by Rio Tinto to have around 40 autonomous trains operating on its Pilbara railway could finally be nearing fruition, with comments from the miner’s rail technology contractor suggesting a potential resolution to challenges facing the project. Spain-based railway signalling firm Ansaldo STS, which is part of Hitachi, is a key part of Rio’s half-billion-dollar AutoHaul program.

Rio planned to have AutoHaul installed by late 2015, but has been bugged by software issues. On a conference call this week, Ansaldo’s chief executive Andy Barr, reportedly said a major Australian contract was nearing its close. Without naming Rio Tinto,

Barr reportedly told reporters, “We are now in the end phase with a couple of important contracts in Australia that delivered a lot of revenues in the previous year”. In its most recent interim financial report, Ansaldo said AutoHaul was one of its main focuses in Australia.

“In Australia, production activities mainly focused on projects covered by the framework agreements with Rio Tinto … and the Roy Hill project,” the company said in an August statement. “With respect to the [Rio] projects and especially the AutoHaul project, the final installation upgrade of on-board devices on direct current locomotives has been completed and is nearing completion on alternating current locomotives.”
Rail Express - Oliver Probert

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