The rails are currently working on the following:
- A battery-powered locomotive is being tested by BNSF and Wabtec. (But remember that the larger trucking companies change out fleets in a matter of a few years while rails would have to modify their enormous existing fleet with all of its’ embedded costs.)
- Wabtec of course is always working on "more; also at least one C-1 is working through the political difficulties to create a consensus for carload visibility throughout the network and with all the stakeholders (Class Ones, short-lines, car owners, OEMs, shippers) ...
- Other forms of autonomy – KSU stated at RailTrends 2018 that they expected to be “fully autonomous” in 5-7 years. Recent conversations suggest that while that is a stretch, they aren’t abandoning their goal.
- BNSF COO Katie Farmer just told an IANA (web) audience the highlights from their extensive automation of intermodal terminals; CSX views itself as a leader in automated IM cranes, etc.
- CSX also has gone public with car trip plans and reliability performance stats, real-time – a good example of what I (and so far, only I) call an “offensive” use of technology.
- CN (and others) are pushing what I have called “defensive” automation (car and track inspections, etc).