Alternative Rail Intruder and Obstacle Detection Systems: Research Results
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Alternative Rail Intruder and Obstacle Detection Systems: Research Results

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      Research Results
    • Abstract:
      Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has sponsored a research program on alternative detection technologies for railroad right-of-way (ROW) and highway-rail grade crossing applications. In support of this effort, the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) of the U.S. DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration has assessed the potential applicability of various technologies, tested prototype systems, and maintained a public-private partnership program to disseminate information. The application of non-track circuit-based technologies for train, highway vehicle, and intrusion/obstacle detection would improve the safety of rail operations and passengers and road users. These technologies would also protect the general population and environment from the risks associated with hazardous material shipments and help relieve congestion by reducing the number of incidents and delays due to those incidents. The main objective of rail intruder and obstacle detection systems (IODS) is to provide train engineers, railroad dispatchers, and security organizations timely information on the status of sections of railroad track and crossings. The intent is to allow them sufficient time to perform the appropriate emergency actions to decrease train speed or stop a train to avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision or security breach. Several types of non-track circuit-based IODS system prototypes have been field-tested in recent years. These systems incorporate technologies, such as magnetic, infrared, ultrasonic, and acoustic sensors, as well as radar and video detection. New applications of these existing technologies, as well as delivery platforms, have emerged in the past few years. In 1998, under sponsorship of FRA, the Volpe Center held a national workshop on railroad IODS. The main objective of this workshop was to assemble a representative set of researchers and rail industry representatives to brainstorm possible IODS requirements and constraints. The workshop topics ranged from accurate detection and timely communication to reliability and redundancy, and the proceedings were published in the FRA report Intruder and Obstacle Detection Systems (IODS) for Railroads–1998 Requirements Workshop [1]. In 1999, the Volpe Center assessed the performance of a four-quadrant gate crossing, employing an inductive loop IODS at School Street in Mystic, CT, on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from 1999–2000. Following the guidelines set forth in the IODS Workshop, in 1999, FRA tasked the Volpe Center and the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) to evaluate available technologies for their ability to detect trains and highway vehicles in the crossing environment. The findings of this effort were published in the FRA report Evaluation of Alternative Detection Technologies for Trains and Highway Vehicles at Highway Rail Intersections [2]. Since then, a host of novel detection approaches involving both existing and emerging technologies have appeared. In 2005, the Volpe Center began updating the evolution of relevant IODS, focusing on highway-rail crossings and ROW trespass.
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