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New train cleaning robots aim to protect staff and avoid delays
20 December 2021
Train cleaning robots are being developed in Scotland to protect staff from health risks and avoid delays.
Scientists from Heriot-Watt University National Robotarium have built a robot with a 180 degree field of view using a static camera on the front and a stereo view camera above. The robot is mounted on four wheels and has folding brushes for cleaning hard-to-reach areas between and under the cart seats.
The area under the seats is a particular challenge for cleaners on older trains, says project manager Dr Mustafa Suphi Erden.
âThis process is currently done entirely by hand and the cleaning staff need a considerable amount of time to collect each waste separately from below and between the seats,â he said. “And going under the seats several times during a long shift can also lead to health problems.”
Researchers spent two years putting together 58,300 images of trash in rail cars to help the robot identify objects more accurately. The team will now focus on producing a flexible navigation tool to guide the robot, as well as a waste detection algorithm.
Scientists aim to have a prototype robot in place by summer 2022 and ready to market within six months.
The cleanliness of train cars has been increasingly monitored during the pandemic. A 2020 survey of more than 50,000 UK rail passengers found that a quarter were unhappy with the levels of cleanliness inside trains.
âBesides being important for health, cleaning can also prevent train delays,â Erden said. âWith the daily pressure on rail services, it is essential that trains are cleaned as quickly and efficiently as possible. “