The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulation 49 CFR Part 213 requires each railroad to ensure that its track meets or exceeds all federal safety standards. As a part of accomplishing that task, railroad inspectors must perform track inspections at specified minimum frequencies based on the class of track, the type of track, the annual gross tonnage operated over the track, and whether it carries passenger trains. Track inspections are performed either manually or by technologies like the “Autonomous Track Geometry Measurement System (ATGMS)” that was developed by FRA.
Syntek Technologies laboratory demonstration displayed gage data provided by FRA. Data that could be displayed using Google Glass includes track geometry, track repair history, previous inspection reports and data, incidents and accidents and other valuable information for a particular section of track. Currently, in order to obtain this information, the inspector traditionally has to interact with a laptop computer, observe the visual display on the laptop and review previous FRA measurement data. All of these activities distract the inspector from keeping his/her eyes on the track during an inspection run and provide a perfect application for Google Glass. The use of a Google Glass, controlled by voice commands and occasional taps to the side of the glass frame, can permit inspectors to continuously visually observe the track while the FRA gage data is seen in the upper corner of the visual field on an overlay display. If track defects are found, Google Glass can permit the inspector to verbally record the findings, automatically tag the GPS location, complete an electronic report form, take photographs or video clips of that rail section, associate that data with a specific section of track and send the information to a database – all while the inspector continuously observes the track enroute or while executing detailed visual inspection and physical measurement procedures on the ground.
This project provides an innovative way to couple humans with advanced railroad information technology. Because of its uniquely intuitive human-computer interface design, Google Glass has the potential to leverage the advantages of human and system interaction to significantly improve the safety-critical task of railroad track inspection, If this project is successful, Syntek Technologies envisages most track inspectors using Goggle Glass, or one of the several other emerging competing products, to conduct most visual/manual track inspections while riding in hi-rail or other track inspection vehicles, or walking or standing on the ground for more detailed observations, measurements and documentation.