The goal of our virtual reality train simulation was to show our guests how a train driver performs his job and at the same time to present different possible strategies for driving a train. We also had one other objective – to demonstrate that train drivers can reduce operation cost of the railway operator they are working for. They can also influence our environment for the future generations, our children and grandchildren – reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We assumed that the Innotrans fair participants visiting our stand did not necessarily have experience as a train driver. Furthermore, due to the fact that the railway operations are regulated by different laws and norms in each country our demonstrative simulation had to be simplified. Our presentation was also a great opportunity to perform a survey on a global scale. During our tests guests from 5 continents and 35 countries have used the VR simulator – 144 people have registered at least one result.
The job of a train driver has its priorities: safety is the most important with punctuality and passenger comfort right behind it. Because of that 72 of our Innotrans “train drivers” had to be disqualified for: exceeding the speed limit, not pressing the deadman’s switch on time or arriving at the end station with a delay.
The average energy consumption for our guests was 26.505 kWh, but the best driver consumed only 12.363 kWh, which is 54% less than the average. Taking into consideration the fact that the average and uneconomical trips comprised 66% of all trips we can state that in comparison with the economical group the virtual railway operator of our simulation lost 376 kWh which constitutes 26% of total energy consumption.
Our experiences from real life projects with professional train drivers confirm that there are significant differences in energy consumption for trips on the same routes, vehicles, travel times and weather conditions. Data from railway operators processed in our REDS system confirm energy deviations of up to 25-30% from the average for comparable trips. In the Eco Driving project we strive to reduce these differences as much as possible so that the energy consumption and railway operator costs fall.
It is worth noticing that the best results were achieved by people who drove the simulation route more than one time. This confirms the assumption that after getting to know the route and its conditions the train driver should have a correct strategy to save energy and execute it consistently: in the case of our simulation time schedule it was enough to reduce top speed to 100 km/h, accelerate the train as fast as possible and drive mostly without any additional engine input using the momentum of the train.
After analyzing the performer surveys we were very surprised by the enthusiastic reception of our simulator. The question “How would you rate the idea to supplement train driver training with VR simulation?” was rated 4.72 on a 5 point scale.
This is also confirmed by the following examples of additional comments on the surveys:
- “Unlimited applications for VR technology- very exciting!”
- “Very realistic environment”
- “Very good solution for training as tram driver”
We – the societies grow wealthier because we are becoming more and more mobile. The transportation efficiency problem is a very important part of the discussion concerning the global climate protection. Our experience and the results of our cooperation with railway operators in Poland show that a skillful monitoring, learning and motivation program can achieve savings of 10% in energy consumption with minimal investment costs. To put this into perspective – the 25 biggest railway systems in the world consume ~194TWh yearly which means that reducing this consumption by 10% would reduce global CO2 emissions by 15 thousand tones.
Let us do something together for Earth…