At a giant training and research facility in Pueblo, Colo., cutting-edge technology to prevent train crashes and save lives is under development.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were almost 11,000 train accidents and incidents last year alone, killing 805 people and injuring almost 4,000.
The 52-sq-mile Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo includes tracks on which train accidents are simulated. The potentially life-saving technology under development at the facility includes:
- Cracked wheel detection: High-tech sensors can take ultrasound pictures of the wheels in a millisecond, capturing microscopic cracks that can cause a catastrophe;
- Positive train control: With positive train control technology, a train would brake automatically as it approaches a red light; and
- Sensor-dropping drones: Firefighters used to have to personally deploy chemical sensors to determine which homes to evacuate after accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials. Now sensors can be dropped from drones, keeping firefighters out of harm's way and speeding the flow of information.
Experts say that when cracked wheel detection is rolled out soon, it will be a game-changer. Positive train control and sensor-dropping drones are already starting to be used.