Research Archive

Research Plan Research Progress and Insights

The objective of the Connected Vehicle Safety for Rail initiative is to undertake research and an exploratory design of connected vehicle applications to enhance the safety of trains and all vehicles at railroad grade crossings where rail intersects with highway traffic. This research will focus on integrating DSRC hardware with existing railroad grade-crossing safety systems such that crossing status is broadcast to approaching connected vehicles to be interpreted by the vehicle OBC and, if necessary, a driver warning activated.

Research Tracks

The ITS Program will use a multi-track approach to carry out the research effort:

  • Track 1: Engage Stakeholders for input across all phases from foundational analysis to focused demonstrations to ensure that requirements are well understood and addressed with the new technologies and applications.
  • Track 2: Develop a System ConOps that will describe how connected vehicle safety applications and strategies can be implemented to improve safety outcomes at railroad grade crossings.  It should be noted that the scope of this research is limited to rail safety scenarios at grade crossings where interaction occurs between rail and other traffic, such as motor vehicles and pedestrians. Rail-to-rail safety scenarios are not within the scope of this research. The ConOps development process includes the following elements:
    • Establish a project steering committee consisting of representatives from all the stakeholders involved in or impacted by the project — owners, operators, maintainers, and users, among others;
    • Capture a clear definition of the stakeholders’ opportunities and constraints that will support system requirements development; and
    • Develop operational scenarios for both normal and anomalous operations. This includes definitions of:
      • Operating characteristics or function of the rail system;
      • The operational environment in which the system is expected to function;
      • System usage and its elements in the anticipated operating environment;
      • Scenarios of infrastructure and/or system control;
      • Critical system performance measures to force early consideration and agreement of how system performance and project success will be measured; and
      • A preliminary system validation plan, incorporating system performance measures, to establish system success or completion.

Tracks 3 and 4 will be performed pending the review and results of Track 1 and 2.

  • Track 3: Develop System Requirements Specifications that transform stakeholder needs (identified in the ConOps) into verifiable performance and functional requirements.
  • Track 4: Develop a Preliminary Test Plan incorporating the following goals:
    • Verifies that the connected vehicle system satisfies the high-level design, requirements, and verification plans and procedures;
    • Confirms that all interfaces have been correctly defined; and
    • Confirms that all requirements and constraints have been satisfied.

Tracks 5 and 6 will be based upon approval of system specifications and test plan.

  • Track 5: Develop and Demonstrate a Viable Connected Vehicle Rail Safety Prototype. Based on the candidate applications and technologies identified as a result of Tracks 2 and 3, a prototype system will be developed and the concept tested. The prototype will integrate rail operators and vendors to cooperate in the development process.  A demonstration will be performed using the test plan developed in Track 4.

At a minimum, the demonstration will characterize the warning time for driver reaction under a range of vehicle speeds.

  • Track 6: Develop a Test Report covering the deliverables from all tasks together with conclusions on the efficacy of this research.

Because operational scenarios differ among different rail operators, challenges exist in developing across- the-board, comprehensive scenarios. If these challenges are met, new opportunities may arise to apply the potential safety improvements to light rail operations and activities.

Research Goals:

  • Stimulate research in the design of Connected Vehicle applications to enhance safety of commuter, heavy, and freight rail systems, specifically at railroad grade crossings where rail intersects with other traffic such as light, commercial, and transit vehicles and pedestrian/bicycle traffic.
  • Address evaluation methodologies, visual and audio warnings, motor vehicle and train presence detection, crossing geometry, crossing gate and flashing light technologies, and human factors issues.
  • Integrate Connected Vehicle and Highway Rail Interface (HRI) technologies to examine the potential for deployment of low-cost, innovative warning systems that could have greater effectiveness than passive warning devices.

Research Outcomes:

The outcome of the research will be an improvement in safety through the systematic examination of human performance in railroad operations and related activities.