Artificial intelligence shaking up railroad industry

RailXTech expo on Capitol Hill showcases new technology and gadgets making the tracks safer around the nation. (Source: GrayDC)
RailXTech expo on Capitol Hill showcases new technology and gadgets making the tracks safer around the nation. (Source: GrayDC)(KNEP)
Published: Jul. 5, 2019 at 1:36 PM EDT
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Artificial intelligence is shaking up the railroad industry. Now business leaders and researchers are showing off the latest gadgets and tools that can out-smart their human controllers and make train travel safer. Our Washington Correspondent Alana Austin tracks down the latest on Capitol Hill.

Train derailments and accidents can cause major damage and even loss of life --- now new technology brought to the nation’s capital looks to prevent such tragedies.

Virtual reality simulations showcase training for drones that can zero in on hairline fractures along a track. The whizzing tools from up above can detect minor defects so small, better than the human eye.

“What we’re doing is we’re looking at the tracks trying to find all the minor imperfections, so that they could be fixed before they could cause an issue,” said Nick Dryer, field operations manager of the BNSF Railway UAS team.

It’s just one example of tools to enhance safety across the railroad industry.

“This isn’t your grandfather’s railroad,” said Ian Jefferies, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

An expo hosted by AAR came to Capitol Hill to get lawmakers and regulators up to speed on the latest safety technology rolled out across the rail industry. Ian Jefferies – the head of the Association of American Railroads – says it’s important policy-makers understand these developments so they can modernize the rules of the road.

“We’re over a 100-year-old industry and some of our regulations are almost 100 years old, too, some of them were designed during the steam-locomotive era,” said Jefferies.

Whether it’s shipping lumber and cars, or keeping the tracks clear for commuters, Jefferies says the rail industry of today is as safe as ever.

One of the latest key technology tools designed to keep rail safe? Positive train control – the system can automatically slow a train if it is moving faster than it should or if there’s trouble up ahead on the tracks.

“Someone riding a commuter train – they would never know anything is different with their daily commute,” explained John Barnette, CSX director of positive train control and transportation training.

While many in the rail industry already put the positive train control in practice, the final deadline for all systems to get on board is December 2020.

Copyright 2019 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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