Via Rail extends pilot project to reduce fuel consumption using AI

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As part of its five-year sustainability plan, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) – Canada’s national rail passenger service – is extending a pilot project which tests the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the firm’s fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions produced from its rail operations.

In collaboration with Transport Canada and Innovative Solutions Canada Testing Stream, VIA Rail originally started working in 2021 with a start-up company, RailVision Analytics, to test EcoRail, an AI-enabled software that provides driving recommendations to locomotive engineers to reduce fuel consumption.

The initial six-month testing was completed with locomotive engineers in VIA Rail’s simulators and confirmed a potential reduction of up to 15% in fuel consumption and resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

These positive preliminary results have prompted Via Rail to extend the project to test the application in real train operations.

“This AI pilot project perfectly exemplifies our determination to find new and different ways to reimagine the way Canadians travel from reservation to destination,” said Michael Brankley, vice-president of railway operations.

EcoRail monitors the driving behavior between station stops to determine improvements that will allow for a reduction in fuel consumption. The software analyzes several factors such as equipment used, season and schedule, to recommend the most fuel-effective train handling behavior without impacting travel time.

VIA Rail unveiled earlier this year its five-year sustainability plan, and this pilot project is a key endeavor that will contribute to one of the corporation’s goals of reducing its environmental footprint.