OCT 10, 2019

CN’s Autonomous Track Inspection Program

Harnessing the Power of Platform Technologies to Build a Safer Network


Within the framework of Intelligent Engineering Business Systems (IEBS), and Information and Operational Technology, CN is moving out of the lab and into the field with new real-time technology platforms that increase the safety, execution and efficiency of our operations.

CN’s Autonomous Track Inspection Program (ATIP) is a fully automated rail car that employs wireless communications to test and monitor real-time geometric track parameters without interrupting normal railroad operations. Powered by solar panels and a generator and travelling at revenue service track speed, our Autonomous Track Inspection Program uses the latest sensor and AI technology to deploy fully automated track inspections 24/7/365.

CN Machine Vision Project

Utilizing advanced electronic sensing technology, ATIP creates a profile of the track being inspected and provides a real-time picture of track geometry to track maintenance employees, enabling them to protect and repair track conditions as required. The data collected also supports predictive maintenance capabilities, and reduces the time required for manual inspections, which increases network capacity and fluidity.

The use of autonomous inspection technologies results in earlier detection of track defects and better data capture for improved predictive maintenance, moving from reactive to preventative maintenance and ultimately building a safer rail network.

CN’s current ATIP deployments in 2019 include eight inspection boxcars that cover core routes from Chicago to Prince Rupert, New Orleans and Halifax.

With our strong guiding principle to be the safest and most respected railroad in North America, CN is evolving from a traditional railway to the digital, connected railway of the future. Next generation technology and Intelligent Engineering Business Systems are designed to provide real-time information to our crews and customers, and are laying the digital foundation that will safely usher us into our next century of operations.


ATIP at a Glance:


  Solar and generator power for uninterrupted service

  Positioning system for precise asset location

  Wireless real-time communications and alerts

  Autonomous onboard data processing systems

  Laser measurement of track geometry

  Continuous measurement of rail shape for optimum profile, rail distance and cross level deviation alignment

  3D track assessment system and component analysis (ballast, ties, spikes, plates)

  Cross plane LIDAR provides a 3D view of railway corridor