FEB 17, 2022

CN’s Autonomous Track Inspection Program

Redefining Track Safety and Operating Efficiency with Advanced Platform Technologies and Digital Innovation

Officially launched in 2020, CN has leveraged autonomous inspection systems, combining state-of-the-art sensing technologies and advanced analytics to inspect track at revenue speeds, without interrupting network operations and without introducing additional safety exposure to on-track employees.

At the core of CN’s ATIP is a fleet of fully automated rail cars that employ wireless communications to test and monitor real-time geometric track parameters and track asset condition assessments without interrupting normal railroad operations. With its ATIP cars powered by solar panels and a generator and travelling at revenue service track speed, CN achieves 24/7/365 track inspections with these completely self-sufficient and autonomous test platforms.

CN ATIP - July 2020

What differentiates CN’s program is the breadth of its fleet size, and its unique on-board technologies and back-office systems. This distinctive approach allows CN to realize inspection frequencies far above traditional means, and provides unparalleled visibility into the safety and integrity of our track. Since launching in 2020, CN’s ATIP fleet has travelled more than 1.5 million miles between Chicago, Prince Rupert, Vancouver, New Orleans and Halifax.

Utilizing advanced electronic sensing technologies, ATIP analyzes track geometry and track components in near real-time, allowing maintenance employees to protect, repair, and proactively mitigate track conditions as soon as they are identified. The testing capacity, supported by our fleet size, results in substantially improved track safety. In 2021, following the unprecedented flooding in British Columbia, CN was able to deploy an ATIP car in continuous service to protect its critical infrastructure in southern British Columbia, ensuring that any track or roadbed variations were identified and remediated ahead of any concerns. In fact, across the network, ATIP has resulted in more than a 93 percent reduction in track exposure to help improve network safety.

Within the framework of Intelligent Engineering Business Systems (IEBS), and Information and Operational Technology, CN continues to innovate and evolve its autonomous inspection program. In the U.S., for example, the Federal Railroad Association approved the ATIP test program to move to Phase 3 based on safety metrics and results to-date, allowing CN to continue evaluating and optimizing automated track inspections. In addition, with ATIP’s strong safety performance and outcomes, Transport Canada has adopted the use of ATIP technology within its updated rules related to railway track safety and inspection methods in Canada.

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
CN ATIP - July 2020