At several conferences recently, I have been inspired by our industry and enjoyed the opportunity for robust conversations about the latest technologies and research initiatives underway with MxV Rail (formerly TTCI).
And nowhere was that more evident than during the 27th AAR Research Review we hosted in Pueblo, Colorado. Each year this event brings hundreds of railroad professionals and suppliers together to showcase the cutting-edge research performed by MxV Rail as part of AAR’s Strategic Research Initiative program funded by the rail industry.
We know that when the industry invests in developing technology, it pays off by improving safety, enhancing productivity and supporting environmental sustainability. Future-focused investments, such as the work described below, are advancing the next generation of North American railway innovations today and will continue to strengthen the value and benefit of a vibrant rail system.
#1: Positive Train Control: Improving Safety & Capacity
MxV Rail supports the industry’s goal of zero accidents, and technologies such as Positive Train Control (PTC) that help avoid human error are key. Now that PTC is fully implemented and operational on required portions of the rail network, our team is collaborating with industry partners to provide lifecycle management support across the industry.
Today, PTC systems focus on improving the safety of the rail network. MxV Rail is also collaborating with stakeholders to develop advanced PTC systems that can safely reduce the minimum separation required between trains when they are moving through the network, which increases the capacity of rail lines without having to build new track infrastructure. Improved safety and capacity, as well as reduced delays, are now within reach.
#2: Novel Approaches to Track Inspections
Inspecting and maintaining the country’s railways is a major undertaking, and MxV Rail’s research brings cutting-edge technologies and new applications from other industries into the process. Electro-magnetic field imaging (EMFI) nondestructive evaluation technology is an excellent example of transferring technology from another industry to enhance rail safety.
Initially, EMFI was developed for monitoring corrosion in the oil and gas pipeline industry. As part of AAR’s Strategic Research Initiatives program, our team wanted to assess if EMFI technology could be used by railways to identify surface defects on rail. MxV Rail helped facilitate the rapid development and testing of this technology in a rail environment. These trials are showing potential that EMFI technology can effectively assess the surface condition of track, which in turn can help rail employees determine when scheduled maintenance is needed and keep rail infrastructure in a state of good repair. These results are available to the public via MxV Rail’s e-Library to help industry suppliers interested in expanding their product offerings.
#3: New Collaborations in Hyperloop Testing
The world’s second operational test track for Hyperloop testing is being built by SwissPod at MxV Rail’s new test facility. Working together, the key players pioneering this technology are building bridges between the industry incumbents and the emerging leaders.
Hyperloop is an ultra-high-speed ground transportation system for passengers or cargo. The MxV Rail team is working with SwissPod to validate their patented propulsion system and to develop a full-scale capsule and operational infrastructure needed for cargo transportation. SwissPod’s goal is the widespread deployment of this carbon-neutral high-speed transportation technology by 2050.
#4: Reimagining Rail Service
Parallel Systems is a small company looking to provide big results via battery-operated, autonomous freight rail vehicles. The ambitious goal of this California-based team of software and hardware engineers is to decarbonize freight, create new jobs and complement the current rail system by building a cleaner, automated rail future.
This technology only became public at the start of the year when Parallel Systems was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for a $4.5 million grant to advance testing. MxV Rail is supporting the project by contributing to the analysis, and, specifically, vehicle testing that is underway now. In a head-to-head comparison, if successful, battery-operated freight promises to be lower in energy use than trucks or electric trucks today, and lower in CO2 emissions than trucking or train currently.
Earlier this year, our company, formerly TTCI, chose to adopt a new name to mark a new era in our evolution. Now MxV Rail, we are a team of nearly 300 professionals dedicated to rail research, testing, consulting, standards, and training. Still a subsidiary of the AAR, we incorporated MxV — the formula for momentum (mass x velocity) — in our new name because our very existence is founded on moving the science and safety of railroads ever forward. That is what we promise, and our team is ready and driven to deliver on that promise for years to come.