To curb global warming emissions, Parallel Systems’ rail technology is intending to make trains a more flexible and attractive avenue for shipping cargo.
“Moving a portion of that freight volume to autonomous battery-electric rail will help alleviate highway congestion, improve road safety, reduce road wear and tear, provide shippers with more cost-effective transportation, and provide environmental health and safety benefits by reducing … trucking emissions,” Parallel said in a separate press release.
“Parallel’s unique system eliminates the constraints of traditional train architecture to compete more directly with the flexibility benefits of trucking.”
Parallel isn’t alone. For the past few decades, fully automated trains have been carrying passengers in cities around the world, from South America to the Middle East. And in a rural corner of Australia, driverless locomotives already are moving iron ore from a mine to an ocean port.
“The fundamental reason we’re doing this is to accelerate the decarbonization of freight,” Soule told TechCrunch.
Moving cargo away from congested highways could help the planet breathe a little easier.
“We had brainstormed that a self-powered autonomous rail vehicle would be a game-changer, dramatically improving rail’s ability to compete with the highway, and defend against the looming challenge of autonomous trucks — now acknowledged by most as a matter of when, not if,” Dean Wise, a former vice president of network strategy at BNSF Railway, told CNBC.
Parallel’s individually powered cars are also going to be electric, making them even cleaner than trains currently on the rail network and transforming zero-emission shipping into a reality.
“The fully-automated connected system leverages machine learning to optimize vehicle routing, traffic scheduling, and energy consumption,” Parallel explained in company documents.
Safety is another benefit — especially after the catastrophic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023, which spread toxic chemicals across the local community. Because of incidents like that, Parallel is equipping its cars with sensors that can brake in response to critical hazards detected on and along the tracks.