Unique autonomous freight system unveiled

The rail-based system can carry truck trailers and shipping containers

Unique autonomous freight system unveiled
The new autonomous Freight Shuttle System.


The US state of Texas is set to integrate a new form of on-rail container transport into one of its busiest ports after the university-designed autonomous Freight Shuttle System (FSS) was unveiled over the weekend.

A product of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, aided by private industry funds, the remotely controlled FSS concept operates on its own railway using electric motors and carries both truck trailers and shipping containers.

Texas governor Greg Abbott, who announced the new solution, says the system is part of a new solution to the growing demand for freight.

"For more than a decade, Texas has been the number-one exporting state in America, and freight movement is vitally important to our state’s economy," Abbott says.

"As the product of innovative research at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the Freight Shuttle System will help ensure that we are able to meet our growing demand for efficient freight movement in Texas and ensure our long-term prosperity."

To be introduced into the Port of Houston in the coming months, the concept, which is backed by 17 patents, has been a 12-year project for Texas A&M’s transport research body.

Hoping to take the best characteristics of truck and rail transport, the solution’s researchers say it uses a third of the energy required by diesel trucks and reduces roadway congestion, potential for highway crashes and infrastructure damage.

It will also improve delivery time reliability, the institute says.

The final product can handle truck trailers up to 53ft (16.2m), domestic intermodal containers of the same length, and all ocean shipping containers in an emissions-free method.

Capable of travelling at 65mph (105kmh) and carrying 70,000 pounds (31.8 tonne), it promises a range of up to 500 miles (805km).

FSS inventor and FSI founder and chairman Steve Roop says freight movement needs to change away from trucks.

"The industry cannot thrive without augmenting our existing transportation system and fundamentally changing how we approach freight movement," he says.

 "The Freight Shuttle System is designed to blend into today’s intermodal network, integrating proven technologies with novel patented designs into a new mode of transportation."

The FSI and the Port of Houston Authority has signed a Memorandum of Understand to develop the deployment of the FSS at the port.

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