Korea tests revolutionary 5G train-to-train signalling system

In an effort to boost rail network capacity, the Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) has begun testing an autonomous train system in which trains talk to each other using 5G.

The aim is to fit more trains on a network by allowing each to know the position and speed of trains in front and behind, and to shorten the safe distance between them.  

The tests began in April at the institute’s Osong testing centre.

5G’s capacity and reliability are estimated to be about 20 times better than conventional signalling systems.

Na Hee-seung, president of KRRI, commented: "This technology can reduce congestion during commuting hours and enable trains to operate more efficiently. In the future, rail will be able to harness smart innovation for convenient transport, through the convergence of green and digital initiatives."

In the KRRI system, information is relayed on a peer-to-peer basis, rather than being sent to a central control hub that only logs trains’ present position.

This distributed approach also has the potential to reduce the cost of signalling, since the amount of trackside cabling required could be reduced by as much as 30%.

The institute says the technology could lessen the consequences of human error and allow the use of smart maintenance systems.

The project is one of the fruits of KRRI’s alliance with Korean tech company SK Telecom since January. The two are working in a public-private partnership to develop a 5G smart control system.

The tests are part of a $30m research programme into autonomous trains backed by the Korean National Science and Technology Research Council of the Ministry of Science & ICT. The project is due to run until 2024.

Image: The tests at Osong involve these two mini trains that talk to each other while they work (KRRI)

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