An exploration of autonomous trains in the United States includes this graphic about how cargo is moved in the country:
At this point, railroad shipping is very important: roughly one-third of cargo goes via train. This only follows trucks. And I wonder how this data works when cargo goes much of the way via train but then needs to make it “the last mile” from the railyard to specific locations.
So how much might autonomous railroads help? Here is some suggestive data:
A European Union-funded study published in 2020 found that moving to newer systems for managing trains could increase the capacity of existing rail networks by up to 44%. An internal study by Wabtec indicates in the U.S. the increase could be even higher, up to 50%. An increase of that magnitude in the ton-miles carried by America’s rail network would be the equivalent of moving approximately one million fully loaded Boeing 747-10 passenger jet planes from coast to coast every year.
Combine this with autonomous trucks (which, according to this piece, may take longer than moving to autonomous trains) and drones and perhaps more future goods could be moved even more quickly.