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US railroad uses Wi-Fi to run ‘driverless’ trains

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The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) has found a novel use for Wi-Fi. It has started using the wireless networking technology to control trains remotely.

BNSF locomotives carry freight across the continental US. However, it is using wireless technology to move units around its rail yards. It reckons the system is more efficient - presumably one driver can run multiple locos from the same seat in the yard control centre - and a darn sight safer than putting drivers inside the engines, the Fort Worth, Texas-based company claims.

Instead, they operate a control panel that mirrors what they'd see if they were sitting in the cab. Their instructions are relayed to each loco via the "industrial strength" WLAN.

"You can even blow the horn," says BNSF CIO Jeff Campbell in a throwaway line included in an interview with Computerworld concerning the company's dealings with cellular providers.

Beat that, Hornby. ®

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