Indian signals new way to avoid rail mishaps

The CEO of Fox Radio in India has came up with RACAS 2001--an anti-collision system developed for the first time in the world that prevents collisions in a railway network.

NEW DELHI (ZDNet India)--Indranil Majumdar thought it was some practical joke when he got a call from the US-based Texas Instruments, that he has been declared the worldwide winner of the Analogue Design Championship.

But for the CEO of the Kolkata-based Fox Radio, more surprises are in store as he unfolds his wonder-model--Railway Collision Avoidance System or RACAS 2001--an anti-collision system developed for the first time in the world that prevents collisions in a railway network.

The prize money of US$100,000 from Texas Instruments could be insignificant, compared to the huge potential of the model if implemented by the Indian government. Majumdar however, feels it's too early to say.

Meanwhile, RACAS 2001 will be further tuned up before it reaches the Railways and the Indian government.

How it works
RACAS 2001 was first conceptualised in March last year by Majumdar. Each train with its carriage of compartments carries an UP and DOWN Transponder located at its front and rear ends.

The microcontroller-based radios are paired to operate in Full Duplex mode and are allotted a unique identity that corresponds to the train name and the running track. Each track is allotted an identity with a Motion Vector (Up/Down or Static).

The trains beam radio interrogations/identifications packets every 30 seconds as they move up or down the network. The master controller (MCU) compared the received identification data with its own track and motion data and alarms of any possible head-on or end-on collision. In case of any possible collision, the trains will be stopped automatically.

The onboard microcontrollers , UHF receivers and transmitters are based on the TI family of Microcontrollers and ISM band transceivers and also components from Toshiba, Philips Agilent Technologies and Mitsubishi.

The system is a safety measure to counter human/instrumental errors in Route Relay Interlocking that result in loss of human lives and cause considerable damage to public property.

According to Majumdar, existing collision prevention systems are deployed in developed nations of Germany, and Japan, who use the Route Relay Interlocking system backed up by an efficient network management system.

"While the Railway Network Management System is scheduled to be implemented within the Indian Railways, RACAS 2001 is fool-proof to collision prevention."

The drivers' cabin will house the Anti Collision Control (ACC) desk through which the driver can monitor the movements of other trains in the course of the journey.

Waiting for the signal
The system, if taken up by the Indian Railways can help avoid major train accidents and loss of lives that continue to occur every year. The cost of implementation for each train works out to under Rs 3 lakh, which is a small amount considering the budget and the compensation that Railways has to incur in case of accidents.

Majumdar, who is patenting the model, is yet to work on the implementation part of the project. The full prototype and a complete testing of the model will take at least 12 months, according to Majumdar.

He is also unclear about marketing the product, and whether or not to form a new company, or to continue in his present company to implement the model.