If you want to see the next level of digital controls for freight rail networks, a good place to look would be a mile-long stretch of test track in Naples, Italy.
That facility was recently the site of a year-long pilot project evaluating the Humatics Rail Navigation System (HRNS), a sensor-based rail navigation tool created by the Waltham, Massachusetts-based tech firm Humatics. Tested in partnership with test track operator Hitachi Rail—which provides digital solutions for rolling stock, signaling, operation, and service and maintenance—the new navigation system could potentially be used in conjunction with positive train control (PTC) technology, a federally required system designed to automatically stop a train before a collision or derailment can occur.
The HRNS platform combines technologies like ultra-wideband (UWB) networking and sensors such as inertial measurement units and satellite receivers. The solution is designed to provide precise position, direction, speed, and acceleration data to train control systems, according to the two companies.
Following the successful completion of a year-long pilot project evaluating the navigation system’s technical and economic benefits, the partners say they are now moving forward with plans to bring the joint solution to market and to prove its capabilities for other applications.
“The Humatics Rail Navigation System is a viable option for future integration with Hitachi Rail’s CBTC signaling systems and part of our wider Digital Railway strategy,” Leonardo Impagliazzo, chief director, digital and innovation, Hitachi Rail, said in a release. “We also see its potential application with global navigation satellite system (GNSS)-based signaling systems such as positive train control (PTC) and European rail traffic management system (ERTMS) and for light rail, monorail, and people-mover applications.”