High-speed Trains: Riding the Rails at 200 mph

high speed railHigh-speed train travel has been in the news recently due to the unfortunate accidents in France, Spain and Switzerland. Much has been discussed about the systems used in trains and how they work or don’t work in order to protect passengers as the travel at high rates of speed from one location to the other. Although, high speed rail travel is not prevalent in the United States, it is widely used as a regular form of transportation throughout the rest of the world, and despite the recent news items, it is very safe. There is always room for improvement though.

So, how do the systems used within the rail infrastructure ensure passenger safety?  There are three issues that must be considered:  speed, avoiding other trains on the track and making sure that the train travels as intended. Complex software systems in both the train control center and on-board the train control these functions, if the train is completely automated. And these systems work very well if properly implemented. For example, train control systems control the speed of the train and its “movement authority”. Just like an autopilot on a plane, the overspeed protection will not allow the train operator to exceed the designated speed for that portion of the track.

I know what you may be thinking — speed was the cause of the unfortunate accident that occurred in Spain. You are correct, it was. Systems and software can only do so much. This accident occurred on a part of the track that did not have the automated systems for overspeed protection in place, allowing for human error to occur. In order to ensure complete passenger safety, automation is key. By minimizing potential human errors, we are actually able to improve the safety of rail systems.

Esterel Technologies, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ANSYS, has engaged with train operators for a number of years to help design the systems and embedded software that keep you safe on both high-speed trains and subways. The SCADE product family is used to develop complex system architecture, embedded control software and display systems used with in control centers and onboard trains. Working with companies like Ansaldo, Siemens, Alstom, Areva and BJTU, we are working to ensure passenger safety in a number of ways. Learn more about how at our website.

And next time you travel by train, think of the complex systems that are in place to make your trip as safe as possible.

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About Eric Bantégnie

Eric Bantégnie is the Vice President of the Embedded Systems Business Unit at ANSYS. Prior to joining ANSYS via acquisition, Eric was Esterel Technologies president and CEO. He co-founded the company in the Fall of 1999. In parallel, Mr. Bantégnie was also President and CEO of Simulog, a high-tech software and services company specialized in the high-tech industries (telecom, electronics, aerospace and automotive) for simulation, product data management, and object, database and web technologies-based projects.