Machine vision analysis of the energy efficiency of intermodal freight trains

Y. C. Lai, C. P.L. Barkan, J. Drapa, N. Ahuja, J. M. Hart, P. J. Narayanan, C. V. Jawahar, A. Kumar, L. R. Million, M. P. Stehly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intermodal (IM) trains are typically the fastest freight trains operated in North America. The aerodynamic characteristics of many of these trains are often relatively poor resulting in high fuel consumption. However, considerable variation in fuel efficiency is possible depending on how the loads are placed on railcars in the train. Consequently, substantial potential fuel savings are possible if more attention is paid to the loading configuration of trains. A wayside machine vision (MV) system was developed to automatically scan passing IM trains and assess their aerodynamic efficiency. MV algorithms are used to analyse these images, detect and measure gaps between loads. In order to make use of the data, a scoring system was developed based on two attributes - the aerodynamic coefficient and slot efficiency. The aerodynamic coefficient is calculated using the Aerodynamic Subroutine of the train energy model. Slot efficiency represents the difference between the actual and ideal loading configuration given the particular set of railcars in the train. This system can provide IM terminal managers feedback on loading performance for trains and be integrated into the software support systems used for loading assignment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-364
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007


  • Aerodynamics
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environment
  • Fuel use
  • Image analysis algorithms
  • Intermodal
  • Machine vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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