Automated safety inspection for railway crossings

A grade crossing a crossing of a railway line and a motor road. Grade crossings are a frequent location for rail-road accidents. One of the most common incident is a truck or other vehicle bottoming out at a sufficiently "humped" grade crossing. This results in a rail/road traffic hangup. In the worst case this may even result in the train smashing into the stranded vehicle, causing loss of life and property.

The maintenance of grade crossings is not a one-time effor since the conditions of the environment around a crossing change over time. Foliage grows obstructing the visibility around the crossing; The road surface can sink as the earth under it settles, causing a change in the elevation profile of the crossing

The goal of this work is to automate the safety analysis of grade crossings. This is important because of the huge number of grade crossings and the amount of time required to manually survey each one. Also this surveying needs to be done on a fairly regular basis.

Crossings that are "humped" can cause heavy motor vehicles passing over them to bottom out. While some crossings are visibly risky, some appear benign from the point of view of the driver.

As of now we have an automated solution for detecting "humped" crossings that are dangerous for low-bed trucks. In the continuing effort we are looking at automating visibility analysis and mapping federal railway assets such as railway signs. You can find more about our work in our conference paper.

The following is a video showing our algorithm operating on sensor data from a humped grade crossing. It shows how we build a model of the crossing profile using sensor data, analyze the road surface and find an orientation that is unsafe for a vehicle