Autonomous Trucks—In a Railyard

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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A COAST Autonomous vehicle provides mapping functionality to prepare for self-driving vehicles at the Kinney County Railport. Photo: COAST Autonomous

COAST Autonomous, a developer of autonomous vehicle technologies for urban and campus environments, is deploying self-driving vehicles at the Kinney County Railport (KCRP), which is operated by Harbor Rail Services of California on behalf of Union Pacific, reports Robotics Business Review.

The following was reported by Robotics Business Review on July 17:

[COAST Autonomous and KCRP] say this is the first deployment of self-driving vehicles at a U.S. railyard. The two companies have identified several areas in which self-driving vehicles will add value to the operations, including staff transportation, supplies and equipment deliveries, perimeter security, and lawn mowing. COAST said it completed 3D mapping of the facility, and the first self-driving vehicle is expected to begin service [in August 2019].

“Through the introduction of re-designed trucks, innovative process improvements and adoption of data-driven KPIs, Harbor Rail successfully reduced railcar rejections rates from 30% to 0.03% in KCRP’s first year of operations,” said Mark Myronowicz, president of Harbor Rail. “However, I am always looking for ways to improve our performance and provide an even better service for our customers. At a large facility like KCRP, we have many functions that I am convinced can be carried out by COAST vehicles. This will free up additional labor to work on railcars, make us even more efficient, help keep the facility safe at night and even cut the grass when most of us are asleep. This is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate Harbor Rail’s commitment to being at the forefront of innovation and customer service.”

The KCRP railyard is located on 470 acres of property owned by Union Pacific, the largest railroad in North America. The railcar repair facility prepares railcars to meet food-grade guidelines so they can be loaded with packaged beer in Mexico and return to the U.S. with product for distribution. Harbor Rail operates several railcar repair facilities across the U.S., the company said.

“This is an exciting moment for COAST and we are looking forward to working with Harbor Rail’s industry-leading team,” said David M. Hickey, Chairman and CEO of COAST Autonomous. “KCRP is exactly the type of facility that will show how self-driving technology can improve efficiency and cut costs. While the futuristic vision of driverless cars has grabbed most of the headlines, COAST’s team has been focused on useful mobility solutions that can actually be deployed and create tremendous value for private sites, campuses and urban centers. Just as railroads are often the unsung heroes of the logistics industry, COAST-powered vehicles will happily go about their jobs unnoticed and quietly change the world.”

Based in Pasadena, Calif., COAST has developed a full stack of autonomous vehicle software that includes mapping and localization, robotics and AI, fleet management and supervision systems. The company said it has partnered with manufacturers to provide several vehicles equipped with its software to offer mobility-as-a-service solutions to cities, theme parks, campuses, airports, and other urban environments.

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