Thales, in collaboration with Toronto-based technology scale-up Invision AI and Metrolinx, has completed the 18-month WinterTech Programme, marking a key milestone towards train autonomy.

This programme was focused on validating the functionality and dependability of a rail-centric system, delivering improved situational awareness, safety improvements, and operational benefits.

As part of the project, a Metrolinx GO train featuring the system was operated in shadow mode on several lines in Toronto since January this year.

The train gathered data from numerous sensors, such as radars, cameras and lidar, driven by cyber-secured 4G/LTE capabilities.

The collected data was then used to upgrade the system to identify hindrances in all weather conditions.

This new solution is expected to provide accurate real-time data for maintenance and operations and improve safety through sensors tracking potential obstacles for rail transit operators.

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It is also expected to enable rapid deployment owing to the minimal equipment footprint.

In case of commuters, the solution is said to result in fewer delays, along with enhanced network safety and reliability.

This modular system can be integrated with smart monitoring systems at level crossings and stations and can support future upgrades.

Led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation, this project received support from the Ontario government through AVIN’s WinterTech Development programme.

Thales said in a statement: “This project positions Canada to be the first to introduce advanced driver assistance and autonomous technologies that can function in all weather conditions.”

Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli said: “This unique partnership between Invision AI, Thales and Metrolinx offers enhanced safety and efficiency for rail systems around the world, particularly those operating in harsh winter climates.

“Supporting research and development projects like this one, which enable the safe operation of advanced connected and autonomous mobility technologies in winter conditions, is why AVIN’s Winter Tech Development Program was created.

“It brings together ambitious technology start-ups and industry leaders to pioneer advanced mobility technologies with global potential.”

Last month, a consortium led by Thales Ground Transportation Systems secured a contract from Network Rail to develop and test fibre optic acoustic sensing technology.