GreenSpeed streamlines the driving experience

Driven by technological solutions and improvements of the railway, the GreenSpeed system has within the 6 years become integrated into most of the Danish trains. It’s an energy efficient system that enables the train operator to run the trains efficiently and punctual. We spoke to Jan Elbæk who was a key actor in developing Greenspeed, and who today is spearheading the project.

The idea for GreenSpeed was born in 2003 when two bright engineering students named Sune Edinger and Christian Hage had a great idea. Edinger and Hage presented their idea for DSB, and luckily for them DSB quite liked it. The two students built a prototype and got hired by DSB to develop and implement the system. Since then, the two chose to commercialize the product and license it to other parties to foreign companies with similar operations. They founded their own tech company called Cubris, and DSB got to keep the solution and further develop it.

But what is GreenSpeed and how does it work? To the very core, it collects data from GPS-signals and integrates these real-time data to a computer system. The system runs an algorithm that compares the GPS data to the time schedules, distance to the next station and speed limits. This data is then turned into information about recommended speed for the train. Algorithms calculate an optimal speed, route and make changes in the schedule into account.

On the screen, the train operator can track recommended speed and what tracks to use according to traffic and construction work. This information is presented to the operator on a rather simple dashboard, to limit the number of disturbing signals he is faced with. The operator needs to keep his eyes on the tracks and surroundings as well.

The system is also called the personal assistant for the operator because it always supplies relevant and updated information. It’s kinda like Siri for your iPhone, only this guides a 35-tonne train. The system also aims to make the ride as smooth as possible, by calculating a linear speed. In this way, as a passenger, you will experience a very comfortable and fluid journey. This allows passengers to walk around or work comfortably from the train, without being knocked out by sudden stops. It also takes into account if a wheelchair user ordered assistance, and increases the trains travel speed accordingly to take into account the slight delay that onboarding a wheelchair will cause the train. GreenSpeed is the real MVP. The one that lets us do our thing while riding on the train.

Denmark is a world leader in the driver guidance system. You won’t find as technically advanced systems anywhere else. Moreover, the GreenSpeed system contributes to giving Denmark a greener profile as it makes our transportation more environmentally friendly. Less use of energy and a decrease in CO2 emissions boost the green ambitions, and on those parameters, the railway is supporting the green profile of Denmark. There is also the side effect that GreenSpeed means less sharp accelerations, saving even more energy and CO2 emissions. This means that wear on the trains is decreased, also having a positive effect on the environmental aspects.

With the new signaling system underway, GreenSpeed will also have to be adjusted to an entirely new safety system in the trains on the Danish railways. Railway technology is an incredibly wide range of technologies and technical challenges with many interfaces and touchpoints. At times, it can be a big challenge to combine old and new technology this way. According to Jan Elbæk though, it is not only the technology that is interesting. He thinks the most exciting thing is to work with technology that means something for ‘ordinary people’, like GreenSpeed.

Everyone wants to arrive at their destination on time, and everyone hates when they do not. This means that Jan sees it as making a very challenging product more tangible. Should GreenSpeed be developed further, an opportunity is to make the trains autonomous. However, such a development lies maybe 10 or 15 years down the line. Technologically, it is easily doable, but it would carry great costs to both develop, but also to maintain high safety standards. The Metro, on the other hand, was built to be autonomous (and has received several awards for best autonomous Metro in the world), as it does not fare in open nature. Also, there is the psychological aspect. Would people feel safe knowing that no chauffeur was driving the train, leaving it to a machine to bring you from place to place? That is one of the big questions facing the development of the railway in the near future. One thing is for certain though – a lot of exciting projects are to be developed in the coming years.

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