Computerized system to warns train operators

DocGeoff Jan 9, 2007

  1. DocGeoff

    DocGeoff E-Mail Bounces

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    I saw this this morning in USA Today...
    Fort Worth - Federal regulators have given BNSF Railway Co. the green light to begin using a computerized system to warns train operators of hazards. The system can automatically apply the brakes, officials said. BNSF expects to begin using the system this spring in a 300-mile corridor between Fort Worth and Arkansas City, Kan.
    Doc
     
  2. sp4009

    sp4009 TrainBoard Member

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    Next step? One man crews:cry:
     
  3. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Certainly one subject to watch.
     
  4. Ed Pinkley#2

    Ed Pinkley#2 TrainBoard Member

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    Hmmm.... The one man crew subject was supposed to be left alone for the time being. It is the most dangerous thing you could do in my opinion.
     
  5. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    BNSF has been getting a whole lot of pressure to do something about collisions between trains. Seems that the two man crews are falling asleep at the controls so that they miss signals. This would be the second major safety improvement implemented by BNSF in as many years. The first was remote control locomotives, which are credited with significantly lowering the injury/death numbers last year.
     
  6. mtaylor

    mtaylor Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Some day there will probably be no man crews, 100% computer operated trains. Such train would operate for cross country runs or yard to yard runs. Locals would still need humans.

    Cant Say I am thrilled by such an idea but I think it is certain to happen some day in the future.
     
  7. Ed Pinkley#2

    Ed Pinkley#2 TrainBoard Member

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    I am trying to figure out how remote control units are safer than manned ones? It is one of the most dangerous things that has been done in recent history. I know of many and I mean MANY derailments that wouldn't have happened if a engineer was aboard. Some inculded hazardous chemicals.
    Going to a one man crew is so dangerous that congress stepped in the fight. I sure want a computer controlled train carrying chemicals on it running through my town. With the state of security and the days we live in thats just what we need nobody on a train and nonbody to look out ahead. When something bad happens it is my job to figure it out. I can't wait to see how long it takes someone to get there and then figure out what went wrong and where and how to fix it. Then there are the very remote places we go that have no roads to get to the train. This is a very serious subject and people need to get more aware of what the railroads want to do in your backyard.
     
  8. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Hmmm. Let's consider the movie 2001 Space Odyssey...remember HAL?

    Having retired from 45+ years in the computer industry, specifically computer controlled factories, naval ships, cement plants, etc., the system architects and programmers design for what they know and can imagine from within their experiences. Sadly, after testing, installation, and delivery, Murphy nails the system owner/operator with something that no one could foresee....generally with disasterous results. I offer Three Mile Island and Chernobyl as examples of 100% computer controlled processes that went awry due to a sequence of conditions that no one foresaw, and therefore did not know how to prevent.

    There ALWAYS should be an experienced senior operator between the computer and the process, especially when that process involves 8,000-10,000 Tons moving at 60+ mph through curves and grades in all weather conditions! Computer controlled systems cause operators, whose job description says "only observe", to become bored and complacent, and management doesn't have a clue until it blows up.

    Been there, done that, received too darn many coffee cups!
     
  9. Big Al

    Big Al TrainBoard Member

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    RC Locomotives supposedly have reduced the death/injury rate because the guy that is getting into places he could be hurt in by an unexpected movement is usually the same guy controlling the movement and most people will not intentionally hurt themselves. There have been some exceptions, though!

    As an engineer I can attest to the fact that not all trains operate the same way. Most fall within certain parameters, but the ones that don't would really mess up a computer. Braking ability, weather, obstructions, etc. would create havoc with a computerized operator. This PTC system does not truely operate the train, it only helps the severely overworked/fatigued crews to stay within the non changeable boundaries like speeds and signals. It will not be able to properly control in-train forces nor can it override good train handling (or bad). It only can stop the train or enforce pre-programmed speed restrictions/signals.

    I work in an area that has cab signals with Automatic Train Control that is basically a system to enforce signal speeds. If you fail to comply with a change in the speed that the cab signal is calling for, or you exceed the allowed speed, you get a penalty brake application and must come to a complete stop for a reset. When a signal aspect drops to a lower speed you have a predetermined time to comply before the penalty. This system alone has kept a few engineers off the territory because they just couldn't qualify to handle it. The PTC system is similar to the cab signal system but does not rely on wired circuits and codes in the track.
     
  10. Mopac3092

    Mopac3092 TrainBoard Member

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    not too mention some several miles of the area i ran on the illinois division of the ns you could even reach the dispatcher by radio because of all the dead areas from the hills and valleys. boy that would be make for a nice mess also. i never ran a remote unit as they were just coming around when i left the ns but i will say that pinkley is right about the deraiments, there has been numerous in decatur terminal. galesburg on the bnsf is another hotspot for remote derailments! just too many circumstances that can create problems for it to be safe.
     
  11. doofus

    doofus TrainBoard Supporter

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    Which collisions were those???

    How can a remote control operator be less prone to injury when sitting in the engineer's seat all the while using the belt pack to control the locomotive??

    I have never seen any government report that claims anything about the lowering of injury/death numbers by the use of RCO. The FRA still has not set fourth any regulations regarding the use of RCO.
     
  12. Pegasuspinto

    Pegasuspinto New Member

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    i have to defend the computers at both chernobyl and three mile island

    i don't know what the computer wanted to do with chernobyl, but that disaster happend when the operaters kicked it into manual mode to play around with the knobs a bit

    Three mile island would of stayed a leaky pipe if they would of let the computer do their job, the computer would of kept the cooling water make-up running and soon was about to kick the reactor into shutdown, when the goobers in charge shifted into manual mode...if they would of all been asleep, nothing would of happened

    computerised long-haul trains will have to wait till optical recognition software plays a WHOLE lot of catch up, beyond that, there's nothing at all stopping a computer from running a train

    Rob
     
  13. Ed Pinkley#2

    Ed Pinkley#2 TrainBoard Member

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    Rob,
    What does a computer run sytem have to do with running 10,000 ton trains? Those systems were designed to be back-ups and would have stopped the events. People have to run the systems. I don't care what optical advancements you make nothing will take the place of human eyes being there and prepared to stop asap. We are trained to look for things out of place and people that shouldn't be where they are. A computer can't do that. Who will respond to the people when cars are hit or people are ran over? How long will it take? I know everyone has complained about a train stopping them on the way to where ever. I can't wait to see how upset you would be if one is stopped and you have to wait a few hours just for someone to get there to figure out what is wrong, what it needs to be fixed, then fix it or call others to fix it.
    I hope the whole town isn't blocked and a emergency happens on one side and the emergency equipment is on the other side. I have been involved with incidents like that more than once and the man that had a heart attack was happy there was someone there to cut the crossing so he could get to the hospital, and the people who's house waas on fire sure were happy the fire department got there quicker because I ran back and cut the crossing when I saw the lights comming. When a train goes into emergency you never know what is wrong. Things to think about when you see computer run trains. Disasters have happened other times you said so yourself. It can and probably will happen again. I have no clue why anyone would want a computer to run a train anyway.
     
  14. Pegasuspinto

    Pegasuspinto New Member

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    i dunno about chernobyl, but the computer at three mile was the primary control, NOT a backup, and was working flawlessly and would of shut the reactor down, and all anyone would remember would be the three mile blackout...humans stepped in and made bad decisions that caused a meltdown

    the pentagon is currently willing to throw many millions of dollars to -anyone- willing to make optical recognition a reality, they want to be able to run ground war vehicles solely by computer, and a lot of folks are working very hard to win the money

    once a car or off road vehicle can run on computer reliably, it won't take long at all for someone to throw the system at a railroad, where the job is greatly simplified by the pre-determined route

    yes, there is always the human's unique ability to notice the little things, but that, IMHO, might be rather offset by the fact that a computer never falls asleep and never finds itself inattentive

    as for someone being there to cut the train for an emergency vehicle or other things that would take manual labor? i just honestly don't belive that the railroad will let that get in their way

    don't think i am in favor of computer run trains, i'm not, but i just don't believe for a minute that the technology is all that far away, nor do i believe that the railroads won't give it a shot sooner or later

    Rob
     
  15. Don Rickle

    Don Rickle TrainBoard Supporter

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    yeap, yeap
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2007
  16. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Rob & Ed,
    Total computer process control definitely has a place in a closed environment, e.g. power plant, paper mill, cement kiln, where all operating parameters and contingencies are bounded physically by the process and the facility. My concern is with processes that are subject to external conditions caused by non-involved and unpredictable circumstances, e.g. humans, animals, nature, etc. I'm sure that Ed and most other engineers can recount situations where they had to make decisions on situations far beyond anything they had ever experienced. But they made those decisions, rightly or wrongly, based on previous occurances in their lives, many of which were far out of their job experience, yet just seemed to fit the situation at hand at that moment. I doubt if a process control computer system can be designed and programmed to "fly by the seat of its pants" because its architects don't have the experience and capabilities of people like Ed, and don't understand the unpredictable external factors that can occur in their normal work environment.

    Many times I had to design a process control system that involved situations and people such as Ed has described. I admit that I understood their words, and could imagine the situations they were describing based on what I had experienced in my life.. Unfortunately I did not understand their feelings and what they experienced because I had not experienced it with them. BTW, most of these projects ended up being successful only because they failed so many times during months and months of testing in the field.

    :teeth:
     
  17. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    You can program a computer for just about any scenario and it still will not cover the human element of experience.

    Jim
     
  18. Clem

    Clem TrainBoard Member

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    The slack action in 10,000 ft. manifest train comes to mind. The only tool that can properly read that is an engineer's posterior. Some of those even need recalibration. :)
     
  19. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Welcome aboard, Clem!
    There is no replacing the human element. There simply has to be eyes and ears and a human brain controlling over the road trains, for the reasons mentioned above. There will be those that try, some will succeed, but I fear it will costs many lives before the bugs are worked out.
     
  20. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Clem, right on, and welcome to Train Board.

    Jim
     

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