Thursday 1 December 2022

UIC IRRB promotes research and innovation in a successful webinar on Assets for Automatic & Autonomous Operation (ATO)

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On 23 November 2022, the UIC International Railway Research Board (IRRB) Working Group 2 held a webinar via Zoom on “Assets for Automatic & Autonomous Operation”. The aim of the IRRB is to promote the research and development activities conducted independently by UIC members and member railway research organisations worldwide, so that they can contribute to railway development around the world. The IRRB’s research and innovation activities also further the development of the scientific community through the identification of relevant research topics.

In this webinar, speakers and participants shared their experience in the research, development and implementation of ATO and ATP for passengers and freight. The webinar can be replayed and all presentations are available on the event page and UIC YouTube channel.

To start the webinar, Mr Atila Keskin, Vice-Chair of IRRB, Chair of WG 2, Manager of DATEM, TCDD, thanked the speakers for sharing their knowledge on this platform. He recalled that the limited resources at our disposal set us the challenge of how they should be used, especially in view of future generations. The use of automated and autonomous technologies, for railways and other modes of transportation, will allow us to use limited resources effectively. These technologies are expected to help accommodate the increasing demand for passenger and freight transport, solve safety issues, and reduce traffic jams on railways. In addition, ATO enables a central control to use advanced communication and internet technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things, spatial short-distance communications and AI-based methods. Railway companies and relevant stakeholders must now work hand-in-hand to facilitate the development and deployment of ATO.

His introduction was followed by a recorded welcome speech from Mr Christian Chavanel, UIC Railway System Director, who saluted the many actions of IRRB, highlighting the much appreciated online workshops or webinars and specifically that on “Autonomous technologies in rail – anticipation and expectations” (9 June 2021). Since then, both UIC and IRRB have especially focused on ATO. He highlighted “a unique momentum for a radical modal shift from road and aviation to railways worldwide” and the next steps proposed by UIC in its latest publications, the [Vision of Rail 2030: Design a better future and the Manifesto. In the context of growing climate change concerns shared across->] the globe (with alarming reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Bank), the railway sector is striving toward a single objective: more capacity for a successful modal shift. Automation and digitalisation, and therefore ATO in particular, are key enablers for capacity, quality of service and continuous improvement of railway services, and innovations.

Prof. Dr Umut Rıfat Tuzkaya Vice-Chancellor of Yıldız Technical University, moderated the following five presentations and stimulated the debate.

1. The Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) – A game changer for the rail freight sector, presented by Mr Andreas Lipka, Head Migration Digital Automatic Coupling, DB CARGO
DAC offers a seamless and safe experience for freight, as it simplifies train composition and preparation. DAC migration planning also ensures operations even when two incompatible coupling systems run in the same network. Mr Lipka highlighted the need to upgrade old locomotives from screw coupling to hybrid coupling or to convert them to DAC in order to pursue the transition toward the automation and digitalisation of freight transport, especially in Europe which is the last continent to lack the technology. The solution preferred will depend on the weight, space and intended use of the vehicles.

2. Automatic Train Control and safety approach in CBTC projects, presented on behalf of Mr Cem Pehlivan, Rail System Programme Manager, PMP, ASELSAN
Communication-based train control (CBTC) is a railway signalling system that uses telecommunications between the train and track equipment for traffic management and infrastructure control. CBTC enables very accurate tracking of the position of a train, making operations safer and quicker. Thus, it has three main advantages: cost, efficiency and safety, the latter comprising the prevention of both random and systematic failures. Automatic Train Control (ATC) supports autonomous safety functions in line with these objectives. All current metro projects in Turkey will implement this level of automation (GoA4).

3. Application of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technologies for Autonomous Trains (AT), presented by Prof. Klaus Werner Schmidt, Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Middle East Technical University (METU)
In his presentation, Prof. Schmidt defined the Grade of Automation (GoA1 to GoA4) for train systems.
He first presented several sensor solutions, then Lidar localisation and cameras, to highlight the different applications and advantages of vision-based versus GPS-based localisation. Both solutions have their uses, as demonstrated in the different simulation-based tests shown in the presentation.

4. Conversion of İstanbul M1 Metro Line from GoA1 (Grade of Automation) to GoA4, presented by Mr Mehmet Demir, Consultancy Services Director, Metro İstanbul
The Istanbul Rail System is 262,15 km in length, and a quarter of the Istanbul population chooses to travel by rail. Line 1, with 470,000 daily passengers, is 36-kilometres long and will be the first to be both extended and fully automated, going from GoA1 to GoA4. The line will be renovated, better integrated within the network, and able to carry more passengers: the peak hour capacity would be doubled with the implementation of ATO, from 18,000 to 36,000 passengers per hour. Mr Demir also explained the conversion process for the trains, wayside and OCC.

5. The current state of ATO in Japan and the newly developed intermittent-type ATP-based ATO system, presented by Mr Shigeto Hiraguri, Deputy General Director, Research and Development Promotion Division, RTRI
Mr Hiraguri showcased the varying levels of railway automation around the world. While Japan has a long history with ATO (it was the first country to implement GoA4), adapting rural lines to a new definition of GoA2.5 could help reduce operating costs to maintain said lines. Concretely, attendants would replace some of the drivers’ duties, such as supervising guideways and passenger transfer (intermittent ATP). Another objective is to implement driverless operation on general lines, aiming for GoA3 and GoA4.

For further information, please contact Martin Brennan, Secretary, International Railway Research Board, at

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