Norfolk Southern Corporation, one of America’s largest rail freight companies has begun deploying Digital Train Inspection Portals which it hopes will enhance rail safety across the company's 22-state network.
The portals feature cutting-edge Machine Vision Inspection technology developed in partnership with the Georgia Tech Research Institution (GTRI), and Norfolk Southern's Data Science team, who built the brains behind the program.
It is expected that the project will improve the companies safety infrastructure and inspection processes as they aim to deploy the portals by the end of 2024. Norfolk Southern leveraged GTRI's expertise in advanced technology solutions that has already helped further national security and economic development.
"We are a safe railroad, and we're going above and beyond to become even safer," said Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw. "These new portals combine advanced technology with human expertise, giving our people and the public further confidence in Norfolk Southern's safe operations. It's all part of our promise to become the gold standard of safety in the rail industry."
The portals include 24-megapixel trackside cameras and stadium lighting. This Machine Vision Inspection technology captures ultra-high-resolution, 360-degree images of passing. The cameras are synced to the microsecond, taking 1,000 images per rail car on average as they pass through the tunnel at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
The high-speed cameras are strategically placed at angles to capture things that are difficult to detect with the human eye during stationary inspections. In addition, capturing images while the train is in a dynamic state, it provides an inspection for various defects that cannot be done while the train is stationary.
AI analyses these images for potential defects. Norfolk Southern's in-house Data Science/AI team has developed 38 advanced Deep Learning algorithms and already deployed them across heavily trafficked lanes. The algorithms have demonstrated very high accuracy levels during testing, The AI transmits the information to Norfolk Southern's Network Operations Centre where the data is reviewed. After review, issues can be identified and then addressed to ensure the safety of rail operations. Critical defects which are found can then be flagged for immediate handling.
The first portal was deployed in Leetonia, Ohio, where trains pass through approximately every hour.
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