Automation: Driving the Future of the Rail Industry

by Hannah Q Young

The Need for Better, Faster, Safer

In the wake of the 2015 derailment of Amtrak North East Regional Train 188, which claimed at least eight lives and wounded more than 200, there has been immense public scrutiny on Amtrak for the lack of safeguard technology that could have prevented the tragedy.  The unfortunate reality of the Amtrak 188 disaster is that it is not an isolated event. Since 2013, at least 13 accidents involving trains carrying crude oil alone have been reported— including the Lac-Megantic tragedy, in which 47 people were killed.[1]

As rail lines struggle to keep pace with mounting capacity, efficiency, and safety requirements, the need for a scalable solution that will allow rail operators to meet these challenges is critical.[i] Global rail executives cite “congestion,” “operational efficiency/reliability,” and “safety/security” as three of their top challenges—and with high speed rail alone expected to attract $900B in global investment by 2020, it is clear that many rail stakeholders are prepared to find the resources to address these challenges.[2],[3] In the face of this need for better, faster, and safer rail operations, automation is positioned as a modern solution with far ranging benefits. Automated rail lines, which enable autonomous control of trains with minimal human oversight, hold the promise of increased efficiency, lower costs, and, perhaps most importantly, more consistent safety.