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The recent tragic crash of a transit train and other similar accidents have even further heightened the focus on Positive Train Control* (PTC) technology. With the looming Dec. 31, 2018 congressionally mandated deadline for PTC implementation, railroads—including commuter lines—are seeking solutions to overcome the barriers for development and deployment of PTC.
The systems have to be able to monitor and control train movements to provide increased safety, which includes the tracking of changes to the physical environment. Light detection and ranging technology, commonly referred to as LiDAR, has quickly emerged as a possible way to dynamically capture PTC information of changing track conditions.
“LiDAR equipment quickly captures very detailed data by using the reflection time of rapid pulses of laser light to map a surface. This information is used to compute ranges, or distances, to objects,” explained Doug Morrison, rail services director at Bartlett & West. “We’ve been working closely with various Class 1 and industry entities in an effort to help leverage LiDAR technology; we’re considering how to apply it within the rail industry to help meet the mandated track change requirement in a cost-effective way. A LiDAR technology solution can also be efficiently integrated into the commuter rail environment.”
Today the process for asset and change management is highly manual. It can take up to 60 days to manually identify, collect and verify the data, with the process completing just in time to repeat it to meet change detection requirements. Therefore, Bartlett & West and RJ Corman partnered to develop a proprietary solution called a CIM (corridor information modeling) Car. This custom platform incorporates 360-degree LiDAR technology, an independent power supply, and an on-board data center all within a typical rail car—thereby allowing the equipment to safely collect change detection and rail corridor data without interrupting operations.
The CIM Car delivers automated mapping of the rail corridor for more precise, quicker and safer asset/change management. Through its 360-degree LiDAR technology, the car is able to capture up to 500,000 measurements per second in addition to providing still images of each point of view. The CIM Car can then process asset and change management data in three days when coupled with a freight or passenger car, with no manual intervention and thereby ultimately providing a safer work environment for the field employees.
As Morrison stated of the CIM Car, “Finding track time for data collection without impeding operation is challenging. With the new PTC regulations requiring that field assets continuously be validated and verified, it is critical that solutions like the CIM Car are explored and available. Data captured through this technology satisfies multiple historical issues—such as high-wide clearance detection, vegetation and encroachment detection, and utility crossings—all in a single pass.”
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