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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on March 5th, 2016 | by Kyle Park Points


Russian Autonomous Trains Arrive In Moscow

March 5th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Bikocity.

Russia Autonomous Train


A Rostec company, the V. Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design, recently deployed its newest software for autonomously controlling trains on Russian lines. The “driver-less train control” software will deploy first in Circle Line, Moscow Metro. The fully autonomous trains will be responsible for everything but opening and closing the doors — and even then, the software will have something to say about it.

After 10 years of research and development and a brief half year of field testing on the Moscow Metro lines, the new autopilot began driving the trains in mid-February.

The system is capable of running trains between stations, stopping with a 3 centimeter margin of error, maintaining safe speed limits, and in turn, reducing driver fatigue and human error. The driver can switch to manual controls whenever needed and operate the doors. The software checks if the train is idle and at the platform for safe loading and unloading.

The company claims the software is safe from any unauthorized access and protected by security strategies similar to those taken by the Russian military. This is not surprising – the company also develops armament and fire control systems for the Russian Air Force and mid-range antiaircraft missile systems for the Army Air Defense. Security of the system is further enhanced by a train identification feature with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) labels.

Russia Missiles


For the last 25 years, the V. Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design has been working on civil projects regarding automated control systems, maintenance and logistics, and subway safety. They instituted the Vityaz auto control system for trains for the first time in 1993 and the system is still in use today.

The company is poised to usher in the next generation of automated control systems and promises more autonomous trains to come.

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About the Author

is a working father in New York City by way of Sarasota, Florida. He is a public transportation enthusiast, clean air advocate, lifetime recycler and frequent panderer. He also reluctantly tended to his family's compost heap for many formative years. He hopes to one day leave his daughter with a safer, healthier environment than when she was born; which shouldn't be hard since she was born in Queens, New York.

  • tibi stibi

    i find it hard to believe not all trains drive autonomous!

  • Joe Viocoe

    The real news here:
    The term “autonomous” has officially become a buzzword.

    So now some people want to use it everywhere.
    Bottom line, nothing guided by a track… Can be autonomous. It’s automatic at best..

  • sjc_1

    Some commuter rail and light rail drivers have been distracted and caused accidents. More computer oversight would be welcome.

  • Joe Viocoe

    The real news here:

    The term “autonomous” has officially become a buzzword. So now people want to use it everywhere.

    Bottom line, nothing guided by a track… Can be autonomous. It’s automatic at best.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Same with roads, shipping lanes and flight paths. In fact, there are profound philosophical problems with the whole concept of autonomy. Indeed, I think the phrase autonomous train should be replaced with, “go-go loco”, autonomous car with “go-go auto”, and as we have no way to determine if humans are autonomous or not, henceforth they should be referred to as “go-go primates”.

      • Joe Viocoe

        No, not the same with roads, shipping lanes or flight paths.
        Those 3 are suggested paths… which you would want/hope a vehicle to travel. But the vehicles can just as easily not travel along those paths.

        There is no slot keeping cars on the road. Further, there are lanes that vehicles are not inherently bound to, and frequently change.
        Shipping lanes and flight paths are equally different. Vehicles can obey them or not. So an “autonomous vehicle” would apply because the computers would keep them on path where a human would otherwise.

        Tracks simply make the term “autonomous” a misnomer. Even when there are switches in the tracks, the train conductor hasn’t needed to make those decisions… as that is decided by a central authority.
        The only thing needed on a train that can be “automatic” at best, is its velocity. All other travel decisions are external.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Well, I would say that is the system is able to process information and make decisions based on that information without human assistance it is probably autonomous. If no information processing is taking place, it’s just running off a timer belt or something, then the term automatic might be better.

          But maybe someone else has better definitions.

          • Joe Viocoe

            Automatic transmissions have had computer controlled shifting for a long time. The autonomous term wouldn’t apply there either.

            The simple explanation is that people are starting to take more liberties with terminology now that “autonomous” is trending.

  • Freddy D

    BART opened in 1972 and has been fully computer-controlled since day 1. Originally they planned on no operator whatsoever but added it due to public outcry. The operators are required to perform a number of activities, all of which could be fully automated, but this keeps them awake. From a security standpoint with well over 1000 people on a train, it’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be an operator since it’s difficult to anticipate every situation.

    • Alex MacKinnon

      Vancouver’s Skytrain has been fully automated since 1985. No driver at all. The system has laser and weight sensors at the stations to detect track intrusions.

  • JamesWimberley

    Driverless metro trains have been operating for a decade or more in France. Google VAL.

    They are a good idea. It must be very hard for metro drivers to maintain concentration. The Santiago high-speed rail crash in Spain was caused by a lapse on the part of the driver. It would not have happened if the operators had managed to upgrade to the latest European standard for software, which brakes the train automatically to comply with speed limits.

    • neroden

      Driverless trains have also been used from opening on Vancouver’s SkyTrain and London’s “Docklands Light Railway”.

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