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New app developed in Birmingham to measure train ride comfort

University of Birmingham scientists have designed an app which they say allows passengers to measure the quality of their rail journeys

University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham has developed a new app to test rail journey quality

Passengers could soon be using their mobile phones to help rail companies around the globe improve the ride quality on their trains.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed an app which they claim allows passengers to measure ride comfort by using their smartphones.

Information collected by the app would give railway companies instant feedback from passengers about bumps, bangs and vibration on their trains.

The university said the study was the first to use artificial neural networks to map data gathered from smartphones in order to evaluate ride quality.

It reveals that accelerometers found in modern smartphones are good enough to be used in measuring ride comfort.

Sakdirat Kaewunruen, senior lecturer in railway and civil engineering, said: "Making passengers feel comfortable aboard their trains is something many railway companies strive to do.

"With the advent of smartphones, passengers can potentially measure the ride comfort themselves.

"Our research opens the door for many opportunities, allowing passengers to provide instant feedback on the comfort of their journey and equipping railway companies with information they can use to further improve ride comfort for passengers.

"There is also potential for this technology to be used to detect track faults and indicate which sections of track are in need of maintenance, possibly saving on maintenance costs and improving the safety of the railway."

Researchers used a specially designed app to record vibration data from a train running on a test track, comparing the information gathered to a reference accelerometer.

Researchers discovered that the technology used in modern smartphones is more than good enough to measure ride comfort aboard trains.

They noted that mobile technology develops at a high rate and future smartphones would have higher quality accelerometers than those used in the experiment.

Vibrations in trains can be caused by welding and rolling defects, rail joints, poor track alignments and various defects or roughness in the track or wheel surfaces.

The types of vibrations experienced on board trains are different from the ones experienced in road vehicles.

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