Software provides cruise control for trains

Engineers working for GE Transportation have developed software that can calculate the optimal speed of a train to minimise fuel consumption.

GE’s Trip Optimizer software functions much like a car’s cruise control. It calculates the optimal speed profile for a trip based on a specific train’s makeup and route, then automatically controls the throttle to maintain that planned speed and save fuel.

It can operate in two ways – either automatically or in an advisement mode. In the automatic control mode, it maintains the planned speed automatically, while in the advisement mode, it informs the driver which throttle and dynamic braking levels to use to optimise fuel efficiency and speed.

Four major North American railway companies have fitted their locomotives with the software and have accumulated more than five million service miles run in advisement and automatic control. The Trip Optimizer generated fuel savings of approximately seven per cent and a corresponding reduction of more than 37,000 tons of CO2.

Pierre Comte, president GE Transportation Intelligent Control Systems, said: ’After years of research, we’re proud to reach this milestone. Trip Optimizer generates fuel savings ranging from three per cent to 15 per cent per locomotive depending on territory as measured by North American train operators.’