Autonomous Trains Being Tested on American Railroads
USA- Seattletimes.com writes that a 30-car freight train recently made a 48 mile trip through a Colorado desert without anyone in control of the locomotive. The trip was taken as an experiment to test the capabilities of autonomous trains.*
The Association of American Railroads’ Transportation Technology Center carried out the project to introduce the new technology and concept. The automated trains may revolutionize the nation’s railroads. Machine learning capabilities are continuing to advance at a rapid pace, and autonomous cars are being tested in many states as well. Proponents of the new train systems are advocating for the autonomous trains’ ability to create safer and more efficient transport.
The federal government is continuing to help facilitate the testing of these newer features. According to some in the industry, the new systems can prevent crashes, and may have been able to prevent the fatal Amtrak crash that took place in 2017, had the systems existed then. However, critics fear that the trains may be less safe than those with human operators. The public may never be comfortable with trains traveling without drivers.
While there are skeptics, artificial intelligence is already being used to help the massive BNSF railroad company maintain its tracks and trains. The system can analyze large amounts of data to help detect broken wheels and other problems. Those who use the systems say that it works well, and that the systems can locate defects even when humans are incapable of seeing the problem.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is also jumping on board with the systems. In 2019, a spokesperson to the FRA stated that they believe that the automated inspections would be able to increase railroad safety.
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