HMI, human-machine interaction, sounds futuristic, but anyone who owns a smartphone interacts with a machine many times a day. Computer software, touch screens, and even simple open and close door buttons are examples of HMI. Fortunately for railroad safety, the use of HMI in the train driver’s desk has continually evolved, making rail transportation safer and more efficient. The continued evolution of this technology will only further improve rail service around the world.
Buttons and Screens
Simply changing control desk switches to flush-mount push buttons allows the driver to more quickly adjust the train’s speed and other functions. In addition, this ergonomic HMI technology provides a more user-friendly environment for employees, resulting in fewer repetitive motion injuries.
Over the years, train drivers have struggled with limited visibility. Now, with advanced computer screens and warning systems, engineers can see approaching terrain and possible problems. Before they roll up to the station, computer screens can relay the video camera feed. This HMI is one of the most valuable improvements for railroad companies, employees, and travelers.
Positive Train Control
Positive train control is not required in all countries but provides increased safety for drivers and passengers. This advanced computer system relays information from multiple points along the train’s route to the driver’s desk, alerting the engineer to upcoming dangers. If the tracks are blocked or otherwise impaired, the system warns the engineer and allows them to adjust the train’s speed or even stop it if necessary. Positive train control also goes beyond HMI by taking automated safety steps without the help of humans if they fail to take proper actions. The systems are pricey, but they may be able to stop accidents such as the recent train derailment in Washington state.
Master Controllers give drivers control of the train’s multiple functions in one convenient system. Braking settings, speed settings, and alarm readings are at a driver’s fingertips. Many master controllers also contain key lock switches to add an extra level of security to these control settings, lessening the chance for human error.
These systems can be customized for your train company to include features such as video monitoring of the upcoming tracks and station. A dead man’s switch is usually present in order to stop the train in case the driver becomes incapacitated. Overall, the master controller is the most sophisticated and important aspect of HMI.
Almost everyone uses HMI on a daily basis in different aspects of their lives. This technology is particularly important for the transportation industry because it enhances passenger safety. The use of HMI will continue to evolve in trains, resulting in fewer preventable accidents such as derailments and train collisions. The marriage of man and machine has nearly limitless benefits.