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2040 Railroad working for the railroad could be via remote..

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, October 22, 2020 8:02 PM

One problem in the USA is that the track isn't maintained up to the standard of the Australian iron ore lines, as indicated by the much more frequent derailments.

I don't believe that any USA railroads use the fixed block system with data transfer from the balise that allows the locomotive to be advised of the optimum speed at any location. This provides more useful data than just three possible signal indications.

The only significant incident recently on any of the Pilbara systems was a runaway on the BHP system, which was due to a combination of operator error and inadequate training of the crewman. So far, no incidents on Autohaul trains.

They don't even have crew in the two hundred ton mining dump trucks at the mines. And they don't run on tracks....

The automated commuter trains carry a "conductor" who can take over and operate the train in case of a system failure. There is no cab, the conrols being fitted in the end of the passenger saloon and fully enclosed when not in use. This applies to the similar trains in Singapore as well. The older trains in London actually have cabs with an operator, who in theory just operates the doors but could drive the train in case of a failure.

Peter

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, October 22, 2020 10:06 AM

York1
I don't believe it can't be done.  Several other countries, including Russia and China, have huge government programs to do nothing but look for ways to get into our systems.

Much of the very enormous system enablement and overhead necessary to make automated operations like this 'work properly' involves this and similar concerns.  In a sense this has been true of correctly-designed 'automated' safety solutions for over a century, although the scale and scope of solutions currently available to us have vastly improved since around 2005.

I am not going to discuss techniques on an open forum, but there are ways to prevent most hacking from having more than a six-second window of 'opportunity', for preventing expedient DDoS-style interruptions, and for correcting the effects of multifactor 'Stuxnet'-style planned attacks even with reasonably sophisticated ToT implementation.  I would note that something dear to my heart since 1983, the design and use of 'artificial conscience', is one very useful implementation principle.

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, October 22, 2020 9:29 AM

There's another issue that needs to be solved, not only for trains, but for cars, and everything else that we expected to be automated.

We continue to have hackers that can infiltrate just about every system out there.  Certain hackers would love to be able to brag about taking control of an automated train.

I don't believe it can't be done.  Several other countries, including Russia and China, have huge government programs to do nothing but look for ways to get into our systems.

York1 John       

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, October 22, 2020 9:20 AM

2040 - All 'work' is done by computers - other than computer programing, manufacturing and repair no other crafts are needed in the world.  1% of the worlds population are employed and the rest are on the unemployment rolls.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, October 22, 2020 9:11 AM

I've believed for many years that the solution is 'telepresence' for the engineer, with autonomous features 'backing up' but not replacing first-hand supervision.  For "most" operations this involves engineers called, not to uncertain trains, but to central facilities (much as air-traffic controllers are).  Among other advantages, recrewing engineers no longer involves long delays in wack locations with long van rides; the engineer 'coming off' vacates the seat or simulator and the replacement takes their place; there are other people in the facility 'backstopping' for fatigue or signs of improper attention; there is quick recognition of any emergent problem or failure and centralized response with assured communications.

This presumes someone else, perhaps allowed to work 'longer hours' under certain conditions (similar to those currently in place for 'single-man crews' -- this person could be thought of as a kind of riding 'superconductor'.  In emergencies they can either 'walk the train' or meet the flying maintenance forces or whatever that partially replace two men helping each other; they are also skilled enough to move the train safely if there is a communications outage.  There are interesting implications where 'pilots' are needed over some territory, or a given engineer is not fully currently qualified on a whole territory... and on whether simulation or telepresence is an acceptable way of learning a territory or changes to it (personally, I believe it is not, and that physical operation is important here).

None of this precludes assigning a physical engineer to a train if there is, say, a planned signal outage or any other known failure or incipient failure of telepresence support, or if conditions indicate failing support as a train progresses over its route or comes into a situation where an onboard full engineer is desirable.  

The condition then becomes what 'fair working conditions' for the poor fellow alone on the train might be.  In my opinion that's a matter for unions to work out and then present to whatever pathetic excuse for management we'd still have left...

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Posted by oltmannd on Thursday, October 22, 2020 8:53 AM

jeffhergert

I think you will still see someone in the cab 20 years from now.  They may do very little of the actual operation, but will be there for the times it fails.  That person may no longer be called a locomotive engineer and will probably be paid less than today's employees.  But they will still be there.

A drone in a war zone is different from a train in the US.  At least most points in the US.  If you're going to have the computer run the show, you would only have a person as a back-up.  That back-up does no good 1000 miles away.  If you have a failure, one of the things most likely to fail will be communications.  It may be designed to stop when comm fails, and 999,999 times out of 1,000,000 it will.  But there's always be that one in a million times when it won't.  The potential liability alone would pay for that observer/operator in the cab.   

It's funny.  UP may have been testing that equipment years ago, but we are ordered to disengage the EMS automation through certain areas with certain trains.  It tends to tear them up to often. 

Jeff

 

Agree completely.  There's just too much stuff that can happen at the interface between the real world and automation to allow crewless trains most places.  

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, October 22, 2020 4:00 AM

I think you will still see someone in the cab 20 years from now.  They may do very little of the actual operation, but will be there for the times it fails.  That person may no longer be called a locomotive engineer and will probably be paid less than today's employees.  But they will still be there.

A drone in a war zone is different from a train in the US.  At least most points in the US.  If you're going to have the computer run the show, you would only have a person as a back-up.  That back-up does no good 1000 miles away.  If you have a failure, one of the things most likely to fail will be communications.  It may be designed to stop when comm fails, and 999,999 times out of 1,000,000 it will.  But there's always be that one in a million times when it won't.  The potential liability alone would pay for that observer/operator in the cab.   

It's funny.  UP may have been testing that equipment years ago, but we are ordered to disengage the EMS automation through certain areas with certain trains.  It tends to tear them up to often. 

Jeff

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, October 22, 2020 2:37 AM

It is happening right now.

Rio Tinto are running 37 500 tonnes (41 325 US tons) trains over two hundred miles of main line hauled by three 4400HP GE locomotives controlled by the dispatcher two thousand miles away.

The line has a number of grade crossings, all equipped with barriers, light and bells and with video cameras monitoring the crossing. Of course, with that size of train, no on board crewman could stop clear of a crossing once it was in sight, even though all the trains have ECP brakes.

There is no need to have anyone other than the dispatcher to drive the train, since fixed blocks are used and the train "knows" its location and grade and the system is programmed with the optimum power and brake settings.

They started recording data for this system in 1975 and they haven't rushed anything. The remote control system was live in 2006 but the trains still had a single crewman at that time. I've seen photographs of UP power at Erie PA fitted with the same remote control system as Rio Tinto were using in 2006 (at about that time).

This is operated through a relatively low population area, but it is an area with a lot of tourist traffic on sealed highways.

Another major operator in the area had signs on their grade crossings forty years ago "Our trains take three minutes to cross this crossing, whether your car is on it or not".

They were trying to convey to outsiders that an iron ore train of 30 000 tons or more was not going to stop if there was an obstruction on the crossing.

I was riding such a train in 1978 (with two crew) when it made an emergency application due to a signalling error. Nothing derailed, but the train broke in five places (there were 220 cars) including a drawbar between two ore cars.

Another operator has indicated that they will go to crewless operation in the near future.

In Sydney, Australia's largest city, fully automatic commuter trains are currently operating. These have no grade crossings and all the passenger platforms have gates that open when the train doors open.

That is now...

In twenty years, locomotives with a crew will be the exception.

UP were testing it more than ten years ago...

Peter

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 10:34 PM

Planes operate in three dimensions and have plenty of opportunities to avoid collisions. Trains effectively operate in one dimension on the only way to avoid collisions is to stop in time to prevent the collision.

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Posted by caldreamer on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 7:48 PM

Yes, it can be done.  Forward and rear looling camera to see what is ahead and behind the locomotive.  Look at what the Air Force has done with the predator drone.  They control them from thousands of miles away in a secure room.

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 6:02 PM

Unionman
Could be that the engineer and even some of the railroad workers will work remotely from a at home simulator. Which would mean that the railroad would hire anyone quilified  on the planet be it Japan or India?

And they will designate you has the individual go to all the grade crossing incident.  Unless and until ALL road crossings are eliminated there will be manned trains.

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2040 Railroad working for the railroad could be via remote..
Posted by Unionman on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 1:20 PM

Could be that the engineer and even some of the railroad workers will work remotely from a at home simulator. Which would mean that the railroad would hire anyone quilified  on the planet be it Japan or India?

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