Yesterday’s 100-mph (in a 50-mph zone) Amtrak crash, like the 2013 82-mph (in a 30-mph zone) commuter train crash, was caused by negligence in failing to have effective speed control systems – not necessarily the Positive Train Control [PTC] which Congress mandated by 2016 – says an MIT-educated ngineer-inventor turned law professor.
The Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) Speedline has used Automatic Train Control (ATC) technology, which prevents a train from exceeding the speed limit at any given portion of its tracks, since 1970.
But it’s a complicated and expensive system which utilizes devices along sections of the tracks which transmit “cab codes” to antennas on the bottoms of train cars. Although its sophisticated enough to permit varying the top speed depending on a variety of factors including how close the train is to a track switch, something much simpler would have prevented these two horrible crashes.
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“Automobile drivers, for less than $100, can purchase simple GPS-based navigation devices which tell them not only what road they are on, but also shows their current speed in different colors depending upon whether they are exceeding the designated speed limit for that section of road.
Surely the same technology could be easily and inexpensively employed to prohibit a train from exceeding the speed limit on designated sections of tracks, and especially around sharp curves,” says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, noting that it’s easier to tell a train’s precise location and speed since it can go only on designated rails.
Today we have devices which can not only automatically control the speed of trucks, but can actually permit them to be driven on highways without the need for human drivers. Similar devices could be used to control (or at least limit) the speed of trains, says Banzhaf, noting that they could be far less sophisticated because they do not have to allow for highway lane changes, drivers who suddenly cut in front to trucks, and other problems which occur on high