Former SpaceX Engineers Create Self-Driving Trains To Help With Trucker Shortage

by Victoria Santiago

There’s a shortage of truckers in the U.S., and these former SpaceX engineers have stepped up to help. They’ve created self-driving trains.

We know what you’re thinking, Outsiders. How are self-driving trains helpful? Well, we’d love to tell you. These trains are smaller than your run-of-the-mill locomotive. That means that they carry less – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since the trains are so much smaller than traditional long-haul methods, they don’t need to unload at a freight hub. Thus, they’re able to sort of cut out the middle man. Instead, these trains can go directly to wherever their loads need to be dropped off. There’s one other plus, freight-wise. According to the engineers creating these trains, they’ll be able to carry heavier containers than your average semi-truck. The company, Parallel Systems, says that the self-driving trains will be able to carry up to 128,000 pounds, which is 2.8 times what a semi can carry.

These trains will take less energy to complete trips, too. They’ll reportedly use 25% less energy than a semi-truck. Each train will be powered by a battery-electric permanent magnet motor. After charging for one hour, the trains will be able to travel 500 miles. In addition to that, they’ll operate at lower costs than any other transportation mode of surface freight. They’ll also reduce carbon emissions.

These Self-Driving Trains Are Safer, Too

In addition to being able to carry more and get stuff closer to its destination, these self-driving trains are fitted with novel safety features. For one, the train cars can separate mid-journey. We’ve all been stuck at a railroad crossing as a seemingly neverending train goes by. Well, if everything goes smoothly with these self-driving trains, those long waits might be over. Plus, this will be extremely beneficial for any first responders that might need to get through.

If needed, these trains will be able to stop quickly. Jalopnik reports that these autonomous trains will be able to stop ten times faster than a traditional train. Paired with cameras that can detect potential hazards, the number of railroad accidents is sure to decrease.

Best Of All, Truckers Keep Their Jobs

Even though these self-driving trains are being marketed as the answer to trucker shortages, they’re not trying to derail their competition. Rather, Parallel Systems aims to help the trucking industry. Specifically, they want to take the strain off of long-haul truckers. As we mentioned earlier, these trains are much smaller and can get much closer to their destination. However, that doesn’t mean that they’ll be doing train-to-doorstep deliveries. Instead, this is where the truckers come in. They’ll get close to their destinations and then their cargo will be transferred over to trucks. Then, the last mile or so of the freight’s journey will be completed by truckers. Not only does this keep the demand for truckers high, but it also allows them to work closer to home.

So far, Parallel Spaces has raised $49.55 million in funding for their self-driving trains. They’ve already developed prototypes, and now they’ll start testing and manufacturing the trains.