Developments to watch: Engineering can save train engineers

Control engineers should offer railroads simpler and more cost-effective systems to automatically slow or stop trains as needed to lower risk.

03/25/2014


This antique “safety first” image was captured at the Illinois Railway Museum (www.irm.org) on Sept. 14, 2013. Some railroads still haven’t installed positive train control (PTC) systems to lower risk of collisions and derailments, recommended by the U.S.Are control engineers missing opportunities to more effectively lower risk for train engineers and their passengers? It seems that easier, less expensive retrofit applications of automation technology to trains could drastically lower risk of multiple accidents related to apparent errors by train engineers.

  • In Chicago on March 24, a commuter train crashed past a station bumper and went up an escalator, resulting in multiple injuries; had people been in the wrong place at the wrong time, deaths could have resulted.
  • In New York, a February 2013 crash killed four and injured more than 60.
  • In Spain, July 2013, 80 people died and more than 100 were injured when a train failed to slow for a curve.

Manufacturing machines can stop automatically to reduce risk. Automobiles can stop automatically to reduce risk. And trains? Some railroads have installed positive train control (PTC) systems. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has recommended PTC for years, said a 2007 post on the NTSB site. Current systems, some suggest, are costly and complex. Developments to watch: Smarter, less expensive, easier-to-install machine vision, sensors, and fail-safe controllers to slow or stop trains based on obstacles or conditions...before more people die. (This seems like so last century.) Putting related keywords into a browser returns attorney advertisements among search results. I cannot imagine that paying damages and attorney fees could be more cost effective than installing PTC safety systems on trains. Below, see related links.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.

ONLINE extras

CBS Chicago: O'Hare commuter train crashes 

Huffington Post: NYC train crash 

BBC: Train crash in Spain 

NTSB said in 2007 it had been recommending positive train control for years



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.