Northeast Frontier Railway Developing Drowsiness Detection Device for Train Drivers

Innovative RDAS to Monitor Driver Alertness and Enhance Safety

Indian Railways
Indian Railways/Representational Image

NEW DELHI (Metro Rail News): The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is in the process of developing an artificial intelligence-based device designed to monitor the alertness of train drivers by analyzing their eye movements. This innovation aims to detect signs of drowsiness in drivers and respond by issuing alerts or even applying emergency brakes if necessary.

The Railway Board had instructed NFR in June to create a device that could assess the alertness of train drivers based on their eye blinking patterns. The resulting device, known as the Railway Driver Assistance System (RDAS), will not only raise alarms but also trigger emergency brakes if a driver shows signs of losing alertness over a certain period.

Currently, RDAS is in the developmental phase and trial stage to ensure its functionality. The NFR’s technical team is actively working on refining the system, and it is anticipated that it will be ready for deployment in a few weeks.

On August 2, the Railway Board formally requested the NFR to accelerate the in-house development of RDAS. The plan is to incorporate this system into 20 goods train engines (WAG9) and passenger train engines (WAP7) as part of a pilot project. Furthermore, all railway zones have been asked to provide feedback on the system’s performance once implemented to facilitate any necessary improvements.
However, the Indian Railway Loco Runningmen Organisation (IRLRO) has expressed skepticism about RDAS, deeming it unnecessary. They argue that existing high speed train already feature mechanisms to keep drivers alert.

Mr. Sanjay Pandhi, the working president of IRLRO, explains that existing high-speed train engines are equipped with a foot-operated lever (pedal) requirement. Drivers are required to hit this lever approximately every 60 seconds. If a driver fails to do so, the system automatically triggers emergency brakes, bringing the train to a stop. According to Pandhi, this current system effectively ensures driver alertness.

Mr. Pandhi suggests that the railway should instead focus on addressing other aspects of driver safety, such as fatigue, working hours, and rest breaks. Many train drivers, including women, often work for over 11 hours without breaks for meals or restroom visits. Addressing these issues, Pandhi argues, would obviate the need for RDAS in train engines.

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