Derailed Amtrak Train was Scheduled to Adopt New GPS Safety Controls

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SACRAMENTO-

A railroad expert told FOX40 that derailed Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was one of many ordered to adopt new GPS safety controls by the end of 2015.

"The system can take over and ensure a safe stop regardless of the actions of the crew. It can take care of situations where fatigue or impairment may play a role," Railroad Accident Reconstructionist Robert Halstead said.

Halstead is talking about Positive Train Control systems, also known as PTCs.

The technology relies on a computer coded with a file of physical characteristics, which uses GPS coordinates to pinpoint curve locations, temporary work zones, and other points of interest along a train route.

"As the train travels down the track the computer is continually comparing its current GPS information to those locations stored in its memory, saying the brakes are going to be applied in X number of seconds. Typically the engineer will have a minute and a half to exert the control of what's necessary to comply with the restriction," Halstead said.

Wednesday federal investigators said black box data from the derailed train showed it was traveling at 106 MPH, before it initiated the curve that catapulted it off the tracks. That speed was double the 50 MPH speed limit.

"More likely than not, given what we know currently, PTC would have prevented this accident," Halstead said.

FOX40 now knows the train was manufactured by Siemens, which has operated a production factory in Sacramento since the 1980s. Siemens did not immediately respond to our request for information.