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Parallel Systems readies 2nd-gen autonomous rail vehicle for test runs

Parallel Systems unveiled Tuesday another second-generation, battery-powered autonomous rail vehicle, which is slated for use in pilot projects both in the U.S. and abroad.

Through this iteration of the autonomous rail vehicle, Los Angeles-based Parallel Systems will be looking at how its autonomous rail vehicle performs with the broader rail network. It said it is developing tools and software so that companies can operate Parallel Systems’ vehicles from their existing dispatching and train control systems. For now, this rail vehicle has both autonomous and remote operation capability. 

Parallel Systems has produced three second-generation vehicles so far, with another three more in production. Additional vehicles are expected to follow. The company said it is producing technology that would allow a standard-sized intermodal container to fit onto the autonomous rail vehicle. 

“Testing this vehicle generation and supporting systems is a critical step in our product development to inform our commercial product,” Parallel Systems co-founder and CEO Matt Soule said in Tuesday’s news release. 

Parallel Systems’ second-generation autonomous rail vehicle transporting a shipping container. (Photo: Parallel Systems)

Parallel Systems has undertaken control, telemetry, traction, brake and dynamics testing since November 2022 at its Southern California test track. Track-worthiness testing will occur in 2024 at MxV Rail’s industry testing facility in Pueblo, Colorado. 

“With less than 3% of the 143,000 miles of U.S. railway occupied by active trains at any given moment, there’s immense opportunity to shift freight from the overburdened trucking industry to rail. In addition to addressing the truck driver shortage, converting 100,000 trucking miles to Parallel’s rail zero-emissions vehicles would eliminate up to 175 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” Soule said. 

Parallel Systems expects to start platoon demonstrations with this second-generation vehicle later this year. Platoons would consist of up to 50 cars, and each Parallel Systems rail car would be individually powered.

Last month, two Georgia subsidiaries of short line operator Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) announced that they are seeking permission from the Federal Railroad Administration to test the zero-emissions, autonomous rail vehicle technology developed by Parallel Systems. Georgia Central Railway and Heart of Georgia Railroad want to use Parallel Systems’ autonomous rail vehicle technology on portions of their short-line network. 

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

  • G&W short lines want to test autonomous rail vehicle technology
  • Autonomous rail vehicle maker outlines next steps
  • Parallel Systems’ autonomous rail initiative moving to the next phase

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