Traffic and the technology used for it, are changing rapidly. Experts agree: Developments that contribute to promoting the use of autonomous and driverless cars will also change rail transport. Mobile technology, for example, is playing an increasingly important role in new developments in rail transport. It allows data to be collected in real time during the journey and ensures that it is processed quickly. This results in up-to-date data exchange between the rail vehicles used and between them and the control centers or other communication units. The fleet management of transport companies can also be optimized in this way. As a result, trains can be deployed according to demand and the clock rates for trains can be optimized. This enables better control of traffic flows on heavily frequented routes. This makes the use of trains in urban areas much more attractive and relieves other traffic routes.
Autonomous driving on many levels
Technologies that are already used today in the development of autonomous and driverless cars, will have an impact in many different traffic technology areas in the future and will have a transformative effect. At Kontron, we have long recognized this trend. For years, thousands of engineers have been working to turn ideas into concrete products that help the transport industry to implement modern, contemporary solutions. Ultimately, this also has an effect on our society as a whole. Because solutions and products that enable modern transport concepts contribute to climate protection and a better quality of life in cities, but also in rural areas.
Embedded technologies are an essential key element of this development. For example, they enable the manufacture of high-performance computers for autonomous driving. Our SUSiEtec technology is an important building block for the Internet of Things (IoT), an essential building block for autonomous driving. In addition, there are time-sensitive networks (TSN) that enable the systems to synchronize while they communicate.
Railway industry adapts modern technologies
The rail industry and its users will benefit from this wealth of technologies. But only if all components are neatly structured and function in harmony. For me personally, the railway is still a very conservative branch of industry, but it is open to innovation when it comes to providing rail customers with new services and pleasant travel. I talk about options such as the Internet in trains. Networked trains improve passengers' experiences and offer them a higher quality of travel. But they also lead to more efficient processes for operators. A win-win situation for everyone involved.
The Internet of Things is an essential driver for this development, because it has helped the rail industry to overcome technological hurdles and borders. Just a few years ago, the solutions used in rail transport were proprietary. Even in the case of a single rail provider, it was not unusual for several systems to exist side by side. The use of a common infrastructure as well as continuous communication was usually not possible. The situation here has changed dramatically in the meantime. Many operators now rely on a network architecture that can easily connect to the control centre infrastructure or other areas of railway operations.
Customer service is a top priority
Another example of the rapid development of the railways are options that optimize travel for passengers and offer services that were unthinkable just a few years ago. These include integrated communication systems as well as options for entertainment or WiFi access, which offer travellers a completely new travel experience by rail.
However, it should not be disguised that the introduction of Wi-Fi and a functioning Internet connection on trains was not a child's play. On the contrary, the technological and operational challenges were great and it has been several years, since a level, acceptable to all concerned, was reached. Today, the use of these functions is a matter of course and is standard for rail passengers.
Analyses for proactive action
But those who ensure smooth operation also benefit from the use of state-of-the-art technology, from automatically provided data for the maintenance of the train, to the analysis of data from various areas that improve the operation of rail traffic. Proactive action in the rail industry now optimizes daily processes and leads to a significantly better quality of service. To make this work in practice, gateway products of the latest generation are used, which connect to wireless sensors on board of the train and in this way collect data and usually even analyse it in real time.
The next challenge, for example, is an IoT gateway with deep learning capabilities. It can help to establish new service structures and further expand the service spectrum in rail transport. This will further increase the attractiveness of rail travel and encourage more travellers to switch to rail.
The fact is, that traffic structures around the globe are under scrutiny. The climate debate, the collapse of urban traffic, but also the attractive connection of rural environments are challenges for traffic planners all over the world. The rapid development of this technology can help us to meet these challenges. We are in the midst of a new industrial revolution that will allow us to develop a number of previously unknown solutions. This also includes the development of autonomous vehicles for road and rail, and perhaps at some point for aviation.
Our industries, including the rail industry, are in the midst of dynamic development. It is characterised by numerous new solutions, which have only become possible thanks to Industry 4.0. Industry 5.0 is already knocking on our door and will help to implement further attractive solutions and integrate them into our everyday lives. In this way, autonomous solutions for the transport of people and goods can be rapidly promoted. New technology approaches such as Deep Learning, Software Defined Trains (SDT), an advanced Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data or Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and much more will be brought together. This will help to further implement attractive designs for smart cities and also integrate rural areas into a modern transport concept.
Do you believe that modern rail transport will help solve traffic problems? Will a switch to rail help to mitigate the effects of climate change?