Daniel Machalaba looks at the developments in train technology in the Wall Street Journal:
Major railroads are installing digital communications, global positioning receivers, sensors and computerized controls on their trains and tracks. New systems can gather intelligence on locations, size and speeds of trains and make automated decisions about when the trains should stop or go. Digital cameras and microphones on the tracks are working on monitoring train conditions to determine when equipment needs to enter a shop for maintenance.
Some of these high-tech tools are already in limited use; others are still being tested. But in the next 10 to 15 years, freight-rail executives hope to put together the best solutions available and to transform one of the earliest network businesses, the railroad, into an integrated digital network that carries more trains and more freight at faster speeds and lower cost.
“This could be the biggest surge in railroad technology since diesel locomotives replaced steam engines a half century ago,” says Robert Gallamore, a transportation consultant in Rehoboth Beach, Del. “Technology will soon be able to produce a railroad that doesn’t derail, collide, break down or fall off schedule.”