Polish railways to develop autonomous locomotive

In the hope of further developing automated locomotive systems, Poland’s national railway company PKP Cargo has teamed up with Pesa Bydgoszcz, the country’s largest manufacturer of railway vehicles and the Institute of Rail Vehicles (IPS) to research and develop the construction of a dual-system autonomous locomotive.

The agreement between the three companies was signed at InnoTrans (the world’s largest trade fair focused on the rail transport industry) in Berlin, by the president of PKP Cargo Czesław Warsewicz, head of Pesa Bydgoszcz Krzysztof Sędzikowski and the director of IPS Maciej Andrzejewski.

According to the agreement, PKP Cargo and Pesa will develop the technical aspects and configuration of the designed locomotive, which will then be verified by scientists from IPS.

Following that, a second stage will consist of design and research work, followed by the construction of a dual-system, electric and diesel autonomous locomotive by Pesa.

“We are optimistic about the joint research and development of new locomotives, and we hope that they will result in the construction of innovative vehicles that will increase the efficiency of our work,” said Mr Warsewicz, adding: “the new locomotives will be more efficient and will help to reduce costs, which is important under the circumstances of rising fuel and energy prices.”

“This contract is an example of our good cooperation with PKP Cargo. It is important to us and shows that we have not only restructured the company, but are also thinking about innovation,” said Krzysztof Sędzikowski.

The project to create an electric-diesel autonomous locomotive has received a positive evaluation and recommendation for funding under the Innotabor programme announced by the National Centre for Research and Development. After completing all tests and obtaining the required permits it should be commissioned in four years. The vehicle is to be classed as GoA3 automation. In practice this will mean that the locomotive will not require control of the route by a driver, as safety will be ensured by an autonomous steering system controlled by artificial intelligence (AI). It will be composed of a system of sensors, cameras, gyroscopes and other devices. However, a driver will be present in the cabin, primarily to take over control of the locomotive in the event of unusual situations.

Photo: PKP Cargo