Former US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta opened the session on Rail Transportation and Communications at the International Conference on Connected Vehicles and Expo (ICCVE), held December 12 through December 16 in Beijing, this morning with a fast-paced review of rail transportation in the US from their earliest beginnings to the establishment of the first transcontinental railroad more than 140 years ago.
Incidentally, he pointed out to the crowd here that it was Chinese laborers who were instrumental in the construction of that line. Positive Train Control, mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA), passed by the US Congress in 2008, is the application of many technologies to help dramatically improve rail safety in the US. Mr. Mineta believes that there is a vibrant future for passenger transportation by rail, especially high-speed rail, so long as it is efficient, safe, and tailored to the needs of the passenger.
After Mr. Mineta's opening remarks, Jon Adams (that's me), chairman of the IEEE 802.15.4p Task Group for Positive Train Control communications, walked the audience through a brief history of rail communications and signaling systems and the continuous improvements that have been made in the nearly 200 years since the first train rolled on a track. Worldwide, rail transportation continues to grow, meeting the needs for cost-efficient freight transport and increasingly finding opportunity in inter-city public transportation as a viable competition to crowded air lanes and interminable security lines. The IEEE 802.15.4p standard will bring with it the ability to tie together rail and rail transit communications, improved infrastructure monitoring for safety and security, and to ultimately bring a convergence between the various wireless communications systems for connected vehicles.
Next up was Mr. Ming Zhou, CTO of service provider technical operations for Cisco China. His theme included a merger of the Internet of Things with the universe of Connected Vehicles. As more and more vehicles are on the highways and on rail, the need for remote sensing, infrastructure monitoring, and inter-communications between these nodes grows geometrically. These communications are important for passenger safety, transport efficiency, and better use of scarce resources. The challenge he outlined was how to route the information between the many sources and the many destinations. The connected vehicle is an ideal environment for IEEE communications technologies and IP (Internet Protocol), which have created the Internet and are now beginning to power the Internet of Things.
One obvious takeaway from the morning session was that in the world of transportation, the role of the engineer as a force for innovation has never been greater and the opportunities have never been more challenging than today.
— Jon Adams is vice president strategic development for Lilee Systems. He holds BSE and MSEE degrees from UCLA and is a senior member of the IEEE.