We Have the Technology to Prevent Future Missouri Amtrak Crashes

By Rick Amato

Jul. 6, 2022 | RedChip Companies


After a deadly Amtrak derailment that killed three people and left dozens more injured in Missouri Monday, experts and industry advocates are looking at new technology that could possibly prevent these kinds of accidents in the future.

Could new technology have prevented the deadly crash?

According to authorities, the tragic incident happened at an uncontrolled intersection that lacked warning lights or motion gates, where a gravel road crossed the railroad tracks southwest of town.

Amtrak said the train collided with the dump truck at a public crossing near the city of Mendon at about 12:42 p.m. CT (1:42 p.m. ET).

Eight cars and two locomotives left the track "after striking a truck that was obstructing a public crossing near Mendon, Missouri," Amtrak officials said in an updated statement. 

What’s worse is that these kinds of accidents involving obstacles on railroad tracks have been around for decades, and the trend shows no sign of abating. According to research firm Statista, there have been more than 91,000 train accidents in the US alone since 2013, accounting for more than 61,000 injuries and more than 6,000 fatalities, according to Statista. These accidents cost untold billions in lost freight, repairs, healthcare costs and resulting civil lawsuits. 

According to an Allenton, PA WMFZ-TV news report, recent obstacle-caused accidents have included:

  • June 26, 2022: Three people in a car were killed when an Amtrak commuter train smashed into their vehicle in Northern California. No one in the train was injured.
  • April 3, 2016: Two maintenance workers were struck and killed by train going more than 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The lead engine of the train derailed.
  • March 14, 2016: A train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in southwest Kansas, injuring at least 32 people. Investigators concluded a cattle feed delivery truck hit the track and shifted it at least a foot before the derailment.
  • Oct. 5, 2015: A train headed from Vermont to Washington, D.C., derailed when it hit rocks that had fallen onto the track from a ledge. Seven people were injured.
  • In late 2020, Amtrak announced the completion of its Positive Train Control (PTC) technology adoption, which was aimed at preventing train derailments caused by high speed. PTC systems automatically adjust a train’s speed based on the train’s location with regard to curves and steep hills. But that technology cannot prevent accidents caused by obstacles on the train tracks.

    Calls for Amtrak to install the technology began in January 2017, but it took Amtrak more than three years to adopt and completely implement it. One technologist, whose company has actually developed and patented new tech designed to specifically avoid accidents caused by train track obstacles, is calling for Amtrak to move more quickly to address these vulnerabilities.

    “The adoption of PTC was an important safety innovation for Amtrak, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Shahar Hania, CEO of Rail Vision Ltd. (NASDAQ: RVSN). “PTC’s tech focuses on speed and position, which are fixed circumstances, but obstacles in the tracks are situational, and can happen – and have happened – with alarming frequency.”

    Founded in 2016, Rail Vision develops systems based on image processing technology that provide early warnings to train drivers of hazards on and around the railway track, including in all weather and lighting conditions. The systems use high-resolution cameras to identify objects up to 2,000 meters away, along with a computer unit that uses AI machine-learning algorithms to identify objects on or near the tracks, and warn the train driver of the obstacle and potential danger.

    Rail Vision recently received notice of allowance from the Japan Patent Office (JPO) for its patent titled, “System and Methods for Object and Obstacle Detection and Classification in Collision Avoidance of Railway Applications,” covering the company’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) based technology specifically designed for railways

    Just two weeks ago, Ian Jeffries, the president and CEO of the Association of American Railways, called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Congress to move quickly to adopt new technology to make railways safer.

    “The freight rail industry writes in acknowledgement and appreciation for the principles you recently outlined for technological innovation,” Jeffries wrote. “We agree with the need for government and industry to collaborate, that innovation and workers must thrive together, and that policies must be flexible and forward-looking knowing that the future is unpredictable. The U.S. is best served when policymakers let data guide innovation, especially to address goals such as improved safety, tackling climate change, and creating more resilient and fluid supply chains.”

    Lives were lost and forever changed in the tragic Missouri Amtrak crash. The good news is, we have the technology to make it much less likely that a similar crash ever happens again.




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