All the facts aren’t yet in – was this human error? mechanical error? electronic systems error? – but somehow the news of last week’s horrific train derailment in Philadelphia is made even worse when you repeatedly hear comments from authorities that this accident was preventable. What could have prevented this accident is Positive Train Control (PTC).
We have a special interest in this technology because we have a client that develops PTC systems, and uses a Critical Link SOM in its product. In fact, after the New York commuter train derailment in late 2013, we had a post on the topic of PTC, in which we noted:
“By the end of 2015, such systems are scheduled to be in place throughout the US passenger and freight rail network. (There has been some pushback to extend this deadline – PTC systems are very complex to implement – but the recent NYC crash will likely push back on that pushback.)” (Source: Critical Link blog – December 18, 2013)
The Amtrak train was obviously one that was not yet equipped with PTC.
We also had an article in Embedded Computing entitled “M2M and embedded processing save lives in Positive Train Control”, which explains PTC, and gets into some of the technical detail on how Critical Link’s MityDSP-L138F is used in PTC communications managers.
We are proud of the role we play in this important technology. Railroad systems are complex. So is PTC: it can’t be implemented overnight, so it’s understandable that it takes time to get all the different segments of a system up and running. But PTC can save lives. If something good can come out of the Philadelphia derailment, it may be that we take another hard look at this important technology.