Computers are pivotal to nearly every component of modern day life and technology. In the transportation industry, such as in train transport, computers continue to greatly influence and positively impact both the efficiency and safety of train travel. Computers are critical to train transport and providing positive train control systems, which have greatly improved the safety and effectiveness overall of train transport.
Although train crashes have become less frequent throughout history by and large, there have still been a number of fatal accidents in recent years, such as the Amtrak ngIf outside Philadelphia in 2015. This accident and others spurred the increased role of computers in the train industry, and the push for more positive train control systems. Positive train control by computers is designed to keep accidents like the Amtrak incident from occurring. Also known as PTC, the computer system works to either stop or slow trains that may be over the legal limit, which would have certainly prevented the Amtrak crash, which was speeding to over 100 miles per hour in a zone that was marked for 50 miles per hour (Brueck 1).

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PTC computer systems involve three components: a train’s on-board computer, trackside ping points, and dispatch stations. This allows for the onboard computer to download information about the route, such as speed limits or construction, to the train itself, and also keep in contact with dispatchers through signaling devices (“Positive” 1). Additionally, ping points are linked to the train’s computer and the dispatchers, which inform all parties of the train’s speed, its location, and whether or not it should slow its speed overall. In emergencies, the train’s computer can even override the conductor and apply the emergency brakes, effectively slowing and stopping the train to avoid an accident (Brueck 1).

In summary, computers can make a marked difference in regards to the train industry, as PTC systems can effectively prevent collisions between trains by tracking all active trains, avoid construction hazards, and also prevent trains from continuing through track signals that are not placed in the correct position. Thus, these computer systems are not only handy for the conductor, but also for being possibly life saving technology.

References

  • Brueck, Hilary. “How ‘Positive Train Control’ Works & How It Could Make Rail Travel Safer.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 May 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.

  • “Positive Train Control.” Parsons. 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://www.parsons.com/markets/infrastructure/Pages/positive-train-control.aspx>.