In a way, Trip Optimizer was an accident. A happy accident, sure, but an accident nonetheless. GE Transportation engineers were devising algorithms for diesel-electric hybrid engines — their then-current project — when Paul Houpt realized those same algorithms could be useful for on-the-rail applications as well.
Ten years and countless hours of research later, GE introduced Trip Optimizer, a breakthrough locomotive technology that functions much like autopilot on an airplane, or cruise control in a car. Essentially, there is a computer running the train, and by taking into account factors such as the train’s length and weight, track conditions, weather and locomotive performance, Trip Optimizer ensures that the train is operating at optimal efficiency.
At a recent conference, all of the Tier I railroads that are currently using Trip Optimizer reported they are using less fuel — approximately 7% less, on average — without losing time. And for every 1,500 Evolution series locomotives outfitted with Trip Optimizer, the environmental savings would amount to the equivalent of pulling 95,000 cars off the road.
“Results measured by North American train operators of various train types have shown a fuel savings ranging from 3% to close to 15% depending on territory,” said Pierre Comte, President GE Transportation Intelligent Control Systems. “After years of research and a considerable investment, we’re proud to reach this milestone. Trip Optimizer is a significant element in the future of fuel conservation with the added benefit of reducing emissions for railroads around the world.”
As of now, Trip Optimizer is only available on Evolution series locomotives, although it is currently being developed for older legacy units, such as the AC4400s, and Electro Motive Diesel locomotives. And even on the Evos, each customer can set up the technology in a unique, customizable manner.