Robot Train Cruise Control

Posted on Feb 6, 2014

Picture three or four small engines occupying the same loop of track and keeping a safe distance as they go round and round. I am sure that many of us have tried this with radio controlled engines but it can be a constant battle to keep them apart especially if you have many grades to contend with. Now picture the same group of engines automatical

Robot Train Cruise Control
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ly keeping their distance from one another, some slowing down as they approach a faster moving train, some speeding up as they are approached from the rear. Combining the pulsed infrared sensor system that was discussed in part III of my series on garden railway sensors ( ) and a simple microprocessor makes this a reality. You may recall that pulsed infrared sensors react to a beam of infrared light that is pulsed at 38 kHz. The applications in the article mentioned above were all trackside but there is no reason that the sensor and infrared emitter can`t be installed on a moving engine. An interesting and entertaining application of the circuit described above is to place the reflective IR system on the front of a small, fast moving engine that is running on a track behind another, slower moving engine. With this arrangement is it easy for the trailing engine to determine when it approaches the first train and slow its motor to avoid a collision and to maintain a somewhat constant distance. A similar technology, called adaptive cruise control, is currently being offered by several auto manufacturers including Ford an GM ( ). It is a modification to cruise control that is designed to keep an automobile a constant distance behind another car. A recent article by Ralph Walker (Eggliner Collision-Avoidance System ) dealt with this idea using a commercial IR sensor. Although the system worked there were a number of problems...

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