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Patented Systems For Reducing Train Collisions    

The safety system uses the existing Automatic Train Operation electronics located in the last car, but not in a control mode, to receive, decode, and process the trailing block's speed command.


With the advent of high-speed rapid transit systems operating on rails such as the Bay Area's Rapid Transit system, BART, and Municipal Railway, MUNI, in San Francisco Calif., it is imperative that the systems controlling these trains know exactly where the trains are at any point in time to avoid collisions.

It has been, and still is, an ongoing problem detecting with absolute certainty and reliability where a train is on any section of track or track system without implementing very sophisticated, and often financially restrictive, presence detection equipment coupled with redundant backup systems that unfortunately impact passenger service.

Detection problems became known throughout the transit industry after accidents (some including fatalities) and attempts were made to back-up the primary detection system by alternate means. Currently, attempts to resolve the problems used human intervention and therefore remain susceptible to human error.

The patented technology provides a safety system to detect and annunciate when a transit vehicle, such as a train operating on rails and controlled by an automatic train control system, experiences a loss of occupancy detection. When a loss of occupancy detection occurs the train control system believes there are no trains in that section, called “block”, of track and would allow an oncoming train to enter the already occupied block causing an unsafe condition or worse--a collision!

The majority of existing rapid transit systems control the speed and location of trains by using duel mode track signaling and occupancy detecting systems built into the running rail tracks and controlled by wayside Automatic Train Control (ATC) systems. These systems transmit predetermined speed commands to the trains, as a function of track occupancy, grade, and position, to the front of the train in essence pulling it along.

It is normal operating practice in rail transit systems to provide the lead car in the direction of travel, and containing the on-board train ATO equipment, a speed command to proceed to the next block based upon information received from blocks preceding the train if no train is in the preceding block, i.e. immediately in front of the train. Conversely, the block being occupied by the last car of the train, under control of the wayside ATC, would command the following train to stop--there should always be a zero speed command at least one block behind any train. It is this zero speed command that is normally undetected by the train's trailing car that the inventor discovered can be used to detect a loss of occupancy detection. If this command is ever anything other than a zero speed command, the wayside ATC and/or associated equipment has not detected the train. By examining this command one can tell if any anomaly has occurred in the entire ATC system and therefore providing a near foolproof means of detecting a loss of occupancy.

According to the patented technology, this command can be detected on-board the existing train by turning on the ATO system located in the trains trailing car, which is normally turned off when going in the reverse direction, while disabling its control of the train's propulsion-braking systems. As a result, the ATO system will read the trailing blocks command but will not control the train. It is a simple matter to detect any speed command from the trailing block of the train and communicate this to the appropriate recipient, such as the train operator, central control, wayside ATC or other supervisory systems.

The patented safety system uses the existing Automatic Train Operation electronics located in the last car, but not in a control mode, to receive, decode, and process the trailing block's speed command and upon reception of a non-zero command annunciate and communicate that information to the appropriate systems.

Primary Application of the Technology

Rail Industry

Patent Summary

U.S. Patent Classes & Classifications Covered in this listing:

Class 701: Data Processing:Vehicles, Navigation, And Relative Location

This class provides for electrical computers, digital data processing systems, and data processing processes for transferring data between computers or processes wherein the computers or processes employ the data before or after transferring and the employing affects the transfer of data therebetween. This class is for electricalapparatus and corresponding methods for performing data processing operations in which there is a significant change in the data or for performing calculation operations wherein the electrical data processing system or calculating computer functions to indicate a condition of a vehicle, to regulate the movement of a vehicle, to monitor the operation of a vehicle, or to solve a diagnostic problem with the vehicle. It also provides electrical apparatus and corresponding methods wherein the electrical data processing system or calculating computer function to determine the course, position, or distance traveled. It further provides electrical apparatus and corresponding methods wherein the electrical data processing system or calculating computer functions to determine the relative location of an object (e.g., person or vehicle) and may include communication of the determined relative location to a remote location. In this class there are three main divisions: 1. vehicle control, guidance, operation or indication; 2. navigation; 3. relative location

Subclass 19: Railway vehicle
Subclass 20: Railway vehicle speed control

Class 246: Railway Switches And Signals

Means for the safeguard and control of traffic upon or across railways (that is, fixed tracks for occupant- controlled vehicles) or which by structure are especially adapted for such use: signals, indicators, recorders, telegraphic, telephonic, or other similar apparatus, devices on the roadway, such as switches, circuit closures, gates, etc.; automatic train stop and speed control means, safety devices, and the structure of signals, switches, frogs, and crossings and their appurtenances.

Subclass 28R: Electric

Class 340: Communications: Electrical

Communications - the handling of information or intelligence, restricted to the conveying of said information or intelligence between geographically spaced points. Information or intelligence is defined as being, matter which is handled by signaling systems or signaling devices (such as telegraph systems) or by that portion of nonsignaling systems or nonsignaling devices (such as power supply systems) which is designated in the arts as having a control function (such as the supervisory circuits which control the circuit breakers of an electric power network). Handling, as used above, is defined as being the active coaction between the tangible communication system or device and the intangible information or intelligence, and such coaction may assume various forms, such as transmission, storage, exhibiting, etc.