Technology Could Likely Have Prevented the Recent Amtrak Derailment
It was a disaster that left eight people dead and more than 200 injured. The deceased include a college dean, software architect, Naval Academy student, and an executive. Families nationwide are mourning the tragic loss of these meaningful lives and new evidence has emerged that the fatal Amtrak derailing incident may likely have been preventable if the railway had implemented the most up-to-date technology, according to CNN.
According to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member, who recently addressed reporters, a system known as positive train control would likely have stopped the train, which was traveling around the curve at more than 100 miles per hour. The following is a look at positive train control and how it could have prevented the crash:
What is positive train control?
A positive train control system combines GPS, computers, and wireless radio to monitor traveling trains and stop them from speeding, derailing, or colliding. If a train is not being operated in accordance with speed limits, signals, or other train rules, the system can slow down or even stop the train.
The positive train control system is a small black box type of device. The devices are often installed in the cab, near the front of the engine, and installation takes only a few days.
Has positive train control averted other accidents?
Unfortunately, positive train control is not widely used, making it hard to assess the full potential of this technology. However, it is believed that positive train control could have prevented numerous railway accidents involving human error. For instance, the 2013 commuter train derailment caused by the engineer falling asleep and speeding around a curve could have been prevented with positive train control.
The NTSB stated that since 2004, at least 25 train accidents could have been prevented with positive train control, saving 65 lives, thousands of injuries, and millions of dollars in damages.
How much does positive train control cost?
The reason for the minimal use of positive train control technology lies in the costs associated with its installation. To install the system on all commuter railroads and Amtrak, it would cost an estimated $875 million. Additional operating expenses and installation would likely amount to $9.5 billion in a 20 year period. However, the technology is being utilized. For instance, in Southern California, the system has been installed on three busy rail lines and other rail ways across the country have installed the system in its busiest areas as well.
In response to a 2008 train accident near Los Angeles, California that killed 25 people, Congress ordered all rail lines to adopt positive train control by this December. However, it is unlikely this deadline will be met and some lawmakers are considering extending it by five years.
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