Rio Tinto Autohaul Project

 
  Simbera Train Controller

Outside of Rio's closed private network, technology proceeds at literally glacial speeds. I will be happy to predict that we wont see it adopted in the main in our life times.
Typhon

I don't know how long you're planning to live but there are already dozens of driverless train networks running, for example the Vancouver SkyTrain.  It might be a while before we see the complete removal of humans from every line everywhere, but I'm confident at least one Australian passenger network will go totally driverless relatively soon.

Really the issue will be the capital cost of the system, and the fact that it'll probably be better to introduce it already integrated into new rolling stock than try to adapt it to old rolling stock - and there are often large gaps between procurements.  Trust in the technology will take no time at all, relatively speaking.

Sponsored advertisement

  HeadShunt Chief Train Controller

It might be a while before we see the complete removal of humans from every line everywhere
Simbera
I don't think that will ever happen... but never say never.
Sure, ATO will spread beyond metros etc, but that's not necessarily "driverless". I think other factors will get in the way of making the majority of trains fully driverless, and possibly even making them ATO.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
I'm happy to say that I hope you're right, although I am still interested in the march of technology. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it has to be done.

Sounds right to me, again not something that bothers me. Grade separated metro lines are easy, but I wonder how trespassers would be dealt with in an easily accessible Sydney rail corridor.
HeadShunt
How much progress has been made on driver only operation of freight trains.
Most freight trains and some passenger trains , mostly those that are loco hauled ,still require 2 people in the cab .
Have to at least get down to driver only operation , before you have any chance of going driverless.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

How much progress has been made on driver only operation of freight trains.
Most freight trains and some passenger trains , mostly those that are loco hauled ,still require 2 people in the cab .
Have to at least get down to driver only operation , before you have any chance of going driverless.
MD
Are single-manned trains necessarily a step between double-manning and computer control? If computer control is going to do a better job, go straight there and don't bother with an unnecessary intermediate step.

I smell a feathered bed.
  HeadShunt Chief Train Controller

Are single-manned trains necessarily a step between double-manning and computer control?
justapassenger
I guess not. At least not once obstruction detection systems have proven reliable enough for there to be no-one up front looking out for trouble etc.


If computer control is going to do a better job, go straight there and don't bother with an unnecessary intermediate step.
justapassenger

IF computer control is going to do a better job overall. I guess the experience with ATO so far has been quite promising, but that may not be transferable to every operational environment. Also I wonder how these systems go from an energy perspective, because energy could become more of an issue in future. I know some US railroads are pretty unhappy about having to instal expensive lineside power supplies in areas that have never had power before for the mandated and farcical positive train control (PTC) system.



I smell a feathered bed.
justapassenger

You could probably say that about the people peddling expensive ATO equipment, too, the engineers who are paid well to instal and maintain it, and management who could get bonuses for helping the bottom line when crews are given the a***. There are people who have an interest in pushing the technology and people who have an interest in opposing it.

Despite having an interest in engineering and technology, I'm not afraid to admit that I do not see the continual replacement of people by machines or computers as a good thing in itself. If that means people like me are unfairly biased, backward or "unwilling to accept change", so be it. Why shouldn't train crew whinge about potentially losing their jobs when every other smeg, especially the rich smegs, are lobbying for their own selfish interests in whatever way they can? The world is one massive feathered bed.

From an employment perspective, we have been advised in an earlier post that quite a few drivers will still be required even after Autohaul is commissioned, which is good news.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
...Also I wonder how these systems go from an energy perspective, because energy could become more of an issue in future. I know some US railroads are pretty unhappy about having to instal expensive lineside power supplies in areas that have never had power before for the mandated and farcical positive train control (PTC) system.
HeadShunt
The energy demand by the control system would be inconsequential relative to the energy demand to move a train.
  Zodiac Junior Train Controller

Location: The Never Never
If a computer can be programmed to make an airliner take off, fly thousands of miles and land itself, making a train go from point A to point B is a doddle in comparison.
It not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when" and the "when" is only restricted by money, not technology.

Zodiac
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Yep and then an air hose blows or something in Mr Diesel needs resetting or we have a break away or a hot box/dragging gear detector goes off etc etc etc . If it was that plane it'd be a pile of smoking wreckage and d'ya think the announcement "White Nuckle Airlines apologises for any inconvenience" is gonna cut it ? I want to see the fella a couple of thousand Km away winding on 240 virtual hand brakes .
  HeadShunt Chief Train Controller

If a computer can be programmed to make an airliner take off, fly thousands of miles and land itself, making a train go from point A to point B is a doddle in comparison.
It not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when" and the "when" is only restricted by money, not technology.

Zodiac
Zodiac

Sure, autopilot is about a hundred years old, automatic landings on jet airliners have been around since the mid 60s, and the rest of the automatic flight technology has also been around for a long time and what we need is a whole lot of money, but maybe there is something else we need.

Even if a plane flew itself as many of them more or less already do, I don't know how confident I'd be about boarding it with no-one in the cockpit, despite the fact that some sort of pilot error is the major cause of crashes. Yes, we have trains without drivers and drones piloted from the ground, but with a 500 pax aircraft it's not the same.

In today's largely automated flights, there are still at least two people up the front, albeit twiddling their thumbs for much of the time, and probably suffering from automation fatigue that compromises their ability to take over should the need arise.

To be honest, I think the airline industry has more immediate challenges than the full automation of flight. The very survival of the industry in anything like its current form could be on the line depending how the economic and energy situation progresses over the next few decades. The US airline industry has been shrinking for about five consecutive years. Linking this to rail, I think similar problems could arise there too, although Rio Tinto will probably already have Autohaul up and running by then.

Yep and then an air hose blows or something in Mr Diesel needs resetting or we have a break away or a hot box/dragging gear detector goes off etc etc etc . If it was that plane it'd be a pile of smoking wreckage and d'ya think the announcement "White Nuckle Airlines apologises for any inconvenience" is gonna cut it ? I want to see the fella a couple of thousand Km away winding on 240 virtual hand brakes .
BDA
This is the problem... sometimes, seriously bad smeg happens, and the chances of coming out of it alive, or without huge delays/runaway/crash might, just might be better if there is someone up the front, even if that person spends most of his time doing nothing. Sooner or later some automated flying machine is going to be involved in a big disaster because it encounters a set of variables it was not programmed to handle. Even if it is just something minor like a fuel leak, broken air hose etc... What is an ATO computer going to do then? "Minor" things like that can cause problems for aircraft that computers might have trouble solving, possibly even to the point of a crash occurring.

First they sent factories to China and replaced clerks with computers, now they'll replace the rest of the workforce with computers too. Who exactly is going to be earning the money to consume all the wonderful goods we're expected to surround ourselves with? The services sector ain't gonna just keep expanding to accommodate every displaced worker.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
It would be interesting to know the ratio of fatal plane crashes caused by pilot error,compared to those caused by mechanical failure.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
How many rail accidents have been caused by driver error,compared to mechanical failure,or other causes?
  HeadShunt Chief Train Controller

It would be interesting to know the ratio of fatal plane crashes caused by pilot error,compared to those caused by mechanical failure.
MD
I think pilot error features in about 3/4 of fatal plane crashes, and if we're talking human error in general (ATC, maintenance etc) it would probably be much higher. What about poor management and poor engineering as causal factors - is that human error on the part of the managers and engineers? I would say generally not, it's more likely to be deliberate.
Don't know about rail, but driver and signaller error features pretty strongly.
  Zodiac Junior Train Controller

Location: The Never Never
It seems there are quite a few out there that believe that driving a train is  an art learned by the reverend few.

It's manipulating 4 handles in response to your position on the earth, no more , no less. It is not rocket science.

It would not take much to record all the physical parametres of any particular load composition and a particular route a couple of times and replicate these on a computer and have that computer mimic those same sequences thus achieving the same result.

Just because there has been a whole mystique created about train drivers does not mean that the job is white man magic or any form of voodoo, it's responses to physical occurrences and a position on the map. Take away the folksy nostalgia driven smoke screen and it comes down to manipulating 4 handles in response to external triggers.

By the way , it seems that some have taken my airliner comparison to extremes (normal for RP) and have missed the point, whats more dangerous an airliner at 38,000 feet at 1000kmph with 400 people on board travelling in free air space or 10,000 tonnes of coal at 80kmph that can't fall much more than 3 or 4 meters travelling on a restricted corridor ?

Take a look at any car ad on TV, you know the ones where the cars are parking themselves, it's not a quatum leap to have cars driving themselves making car drivers redundant.

Technology has a way of making the present into quaint nostalgia if you live long enough.

Zodiac.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: North of the border!
Those cars that drive themselves are already being tested in the US.

Guess the trucking industry will beat rail (yet again). If not by removing drivers, they will have systems that will monitor and intervene allowing drivers to do longer stints.
  HeadShunt Chief Train Controller

whats more dangerous an airliner at 38,000 feet at 1000kmph with 400 people on board travelling in free air space or 10,000 tonnes of coal at 80kmph that can't fall much more than 3 or 4 meters travelling on a restricted corridor ?
Zodiac


Certainly Rio Tinto's operation is a good one for pioneering ATO because there are no passengers to get killed and not too many suburbs to be wiped out, no matter how fantastic the derailment.


Technology has a way of making the present into quaint nostalgia if you live long enough.

Zodiac.
Zodiac


Sure, assuming the oil and debt fueled industrial paradigm we have come to know and love survives long enough for the magical process of technological advancement to continue revolutionising society. I'm not sure it will. The technology revolution has already slowed dramatically in some ways and I think some of the technology being touted as keys to solving tomorrow's problems, real or fabricated, may never get very far past experimental stages or limited applications.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
I don't know how long you're planning to live but there are already dozens of driverless train networks running, for example the Vancouver SkyTrain.  It might be a while before we see the complete removal of humans from every line everywhere, but I'm confident at least one Australian passenger network will go totally driverless relatively soon.

Really the issue will be the capital cost of the system, and the fact that it'll probably be better to introduce it already integrated into new rolling stock than try to adapt it to old rolling stock - and there are often large gaps between procurements.  Trust in the technology will take no time at all, relatively speaking.
Simbera

London Underground has 10 or so lines that don't interrun much. When the rolling stock gets old, they replace the whole lot on that line, incorporating new technology that might have been developed in the previous 40 years, such as driverless operation or whatever. This is a little harder is say Sydney where trains do interrun over most of the lines. Once the new technology is developed, the cost of introducing it probably much reduced.

One might also add, that the cost of new lines in tunnel, such as NWRL, is so expensive for the just the civil engineering, that keeping 1900s "train stop" signalling is absurd.
  M636C Minister for Railways


It would not take much to record all the physical parameters of any particular load composition and a particular route a couple of times and replicate these on a computer and have that computer mimic those same sequences thus achieving the same result.


Zodiac.
Zodiac

I was involved in recording those parameters on Hamersley Iron in 1978, while working with BHP Melbourne Research Laboratories but more work was done at the same time by the University of Western Australia.

Right now on lines with the In Cab Signal System, Rio locomotives "know" where they are, know the indication of the next "signal" and advise the driver of a recommended speed, zero if the "signal" is nearby and at danger.

It's not a big step to take the driver out of the loop. The question is: how does the system cope with any of the failures that will happen.

M636C
  jcouch Assistant Commissioner

Location: Asleep on a commuter train
I know nothing of automous trains, but I have done a lot of work in the past on submersibles and aircraft and my current job deals with building automation. A lot is in how you engineer the software to run in normal mode. Think of it like vaccuum brakes - when running the system holds the brakes off. The normal no-intervention mode is to have them applied. Your basic control loop then applies to have them held open. If anything goes wrong, eg software crash, the system defaults to the no pwer situation - brakes applied.  Of course you could manage to crash the software in a way that leaves them stuck open, but that's the role of watchdogs and computerised versions of deadman switches to monitor and kill the system if things go out of whack.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
I know nothing of automous trains, but I have done a lot of work in the past on submersibles and aircraft and my current job deals with building automation. A lot is in how you engineer the software to run in normal mode. Think of it like vaccuum brakes - when running the system holds the brakes off. The normal no-intervention mode is to have them applied. Your basic control loop then applies to have them held open. If anything goes wrong, eg software crash, the system defaults to the no pwer situation - brakes applied.  Of course you could manage to crash the software in a way that leaves them stuck open, but that's the role of watchdogs and computerised versions of deadman switches to monitor and kill the system if things go out of whack.
"jcouch"


It's called Fail Safe  (that means Fail to Safe mode)
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
I was involved in recording those parameters on Hamersley Iron in 1978, while working with BHP Melbourne Research Laboratories but more work was done at the same time by the University of Western Australia.

Right now on lines with the In Cab Signal System, Rio locomotives "know" where they are, know the indication of the next "signal" and advise the driver of a recommended speed, zero if the "signal" is nearby and at danger.

It's not a big step to take the driver out of the loop. The question is: how does the system cope with any of the failures that will happen.

M636C
M636C
If I walk down to my local Metro station, the train arrives and stops at the correction location every 3-10min depending on the time of day. Thousands get on and off each day from this station. All up 350,000 people a day use my local metro system with trains running as close as a few minutes apart and if a passenegr needs help at a station for a medical condition for example. The following trains stop neatly behind it at a safe distance. The entire time not one of these train running over about 75km of track on two lines, stopping and terminating and returning back where they came from has not 1 driver on board. One station has an elevated end of track ready for the next extension about 250m past the station. Should the train run past, gravity will correct this error quickly and bring to a painful stop 10m down.

I know a driverless metro train is not as complex as a freight train, but the users of the metro are worth alot more money and publicity if something goes wrong. They also run much closer spaced. I assume the failsafe system used by Sepco for the Dubai Metro uses multi PLC control with 2/3 voting. Such that failure of one unit is detected and two function units out votes the faulty one. there is also probably a safety over ride system that is completely seperate to the train control and should this system detect a high level fault it can bring the train to a hault PDQ. Likewise the traffic control that would prevent trains running into each other.

Personally I think the Air con system in the walk up to Dubai Marina Station is less reliable than the trains.
  Zodiac Junior Train Controller

Location: The Never Never
I see no one has mentioned the news that in NSW they are considering driver-less trains on the new north-west project.
It seems technology is no longer lurking in the shadows but now knocking on the front door.
  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
I look forward to the day when Train Controllers and remote controllers are taken out of the picture. With computer these days, it would be a simple matter of just programming in a route and bam! Your done. Hopefully Rio looks into this once the drivers are removed from trains.
TBH, I am surprised why they have not got rid of them yet.
  HeadShunt Chief Train Controller

I look forward to the day when Train Controllers and remote controllers are taken out of the picture. With computer these days, it would be a simple matter of just programming in a route and bam! Your done. Hopefully Rio looks into this once the drivers are removed from trains.
TBH, I am surprised why they have not got rid of them yet.
seb2351
Just out of interest, has that ever been done - driverless ATO without signallers/controllers? Automatic route setting is one thing, but removing the signaller/controller altogether would appear to take it into different territory. Presumably someone still has to load the electronic timetables, respond to emergencies and irregularities etc. I suppose the technology is largely already available aside from the dealing with irregularities/emergencies bit, but that's a pretty important bit... Again working in the desert would make it easier than a large city with trespassers galore and cars driven by drunk idiots or senile old fools crashing into the rail corridor and onto the tracks.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: North of the border!
Another crazy idea... robotic tractors Surprised

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-29/4720368
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
I see no one has mentioned the news that in NSW they are considering driver-less trains on the new north-west project.
It seems technology is no longer lurking in the shadows but now knocking on the front door.
Zodiac
Is this the same state that has yet to get rid of guards on suburban trains??

Sponsored advertisement

Subscribers: Boss, crisfitz, Pressman, RTT_Rules, skitz

Display from:   

Quick Reply

We've disabled Quick Reply for this thread as it was last updated more than six months ago.