Innovation That Matters

The autonomous electric railcars offer sustainability, flexibility, and safety benefits | Photo source Parallel Systems

Autonomous electric cargo trains

Mobility & Transport

A new startup combines software and hardware to deliver autonomous railcars that can clean up freight transport

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Spotted: Los Angeles-based Parallel Systems is an early stage startup on a mission to decarbonise rail freight. The company, which was founded by former SpaceX engineers, aims to make better use of America’s rail network with individually powered autonomous railcars that transport single or double-stacked shipping containers.

The railcars can be joined together to form ‘platoons’. Alternatively, they can split off to multiple destinations during the route. The electric rail vehicles provide more flexibility than traditional freight trains. This is because the platoons do not need to transport large quantities of freight to be economical. This enables a more responsive service, and saves time spent loading trains that can be miles long.

Another key benefit of the Parallel vehicles, is that they are more energy-efficient than traditional trains as they are lighter and more aerodynamic. They also use 25 per cent less energy than a semi-truck – a common type of road freight vehicle.

Finally, the Parallel rail system offers safety benefits. The autonomous vehicles can detect hazards extremely quickly, and redundant braking stops the vehicles ten times more quickly than a freight train. Moreover, the platoons automatically maintain safe speeds based on track conditions.

“Our business model is to give railroads the tools to convert some of the $700 billion U.S. trucking industry to rail. The Parallel system can also help alleviate the supply chain crisis by enabling low cost and regular movement of freight in and out of ports,” explains Matt Soule, Co-founder and CEO of Parallel Systems.

Other innovations spotted by Springwise that aim to clean up the freight industry include medium-duty electric tucks, and autonomous trucks that have been tested on public roads.

Written By: Katrina Lane



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