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Increasing Safety and Efficiency of Railway Transport: A Biologically Inspired New Approach

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journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2012, 00:00 authored by Cristina Rico-Garcia, Ozan K. Tonguz

The traffic control systems currently used in rail transportation are heavily infrastructure-based and therefore very costly. This work proposes a biologically inspired solution for the coordination of trains in dense railway networks, avoiding collisions with considerably higher cost efficiency than the state of the art solutions. This solution does not require track mounted infrastructure, instead it relies on the continuous cooperation between trains. Inspired by self-organizing biological systems, two simple algorithms are proposed for managing points of conflict or switches where the right of way or priority of trains has to be carefully handled. The first-level algorithm avoids local collisions by the exchange of status information through beacons. The second-level algorithm uses one-hop or multi-hop communication to share the network status among trains and coordinates the trains in possible conflict zones around switches or in shunting yards. The proposed solution can decrease the signalling cost ofrailway transport substantially. This efficient approach can significantly reduce the probability of accidents caused by human and hardware errors. In addition, the proposed approach can lead to significant time and energy savings in railway transport. The biologically inspired solution proposed in this paper might lead to a paradigm shift in the signalling system used in rail transportation.


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