Cab simulator used to boost safety on US railways

Researchers at the US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are using an advanced train cab simulator as part of efforts to prevent rail accidents caused by human error.

The newly acquired Cab Technology Integration Laboratory (CTIL) is based at the US Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, though it is also transportable. It was developed and built by Alion Science and Technology and cost $1.6m.

The equipment will permit researchers to simulate conditions and scenarios encountered during railway operations, helping to identify safety problems and develop effective solutions. It uses video, audio and eye-tracking capabilities to record crew behaviour at the control and button-pushing level, allowing researchers to observe the actions of train crews, and monitor the corresponding effect of their actions on the simulated locomotive they are operating.

Other features include modelling and visualisation technologies which are tools to optimise the physical design and configuration of locomotive cabs to enhance crew performance.

Specifically, the simulator will be used to evaluate the safety and reliability of new locomotive technology systems, controls and displays before they are brought into widespread use.

The FRA has a longstanding research programme to analyse the role human factors play in freight and passenger train accidents, injuries and deaths. The CTIL is intended to serve as a resource for technical collaboration between government, industry, academia, and others to improve train crew decision-making and performance during routine railway operations.

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