Federal government agency interested in autonomous train potenti - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Federal government agency interested in autonomous train potential

The Federal Railroad Administration wants to know what transportation companies, safety experts and ordinary people think about the idea of driverless trains. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Federal Railroad Administration wants to know what transportation companies, safety experts and ordinary people think about the idea of driverless trains. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Scott Jones says new technology has made trains safer, but he believes it's critical to continue to have an engineer and a conductor because of the "X" factors that autonomous technology can't replace. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Scott Jones says new technology has made trains safer, but he believes it's critical to continue to have an engineer and a conductor because of the "X" factors that autonomous technology can't replace. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
At this point in time, only one company in Australia is running fully autonomous freight trains. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) At this point in time, only one company in Australia is running fully autonomous freight trains. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Federal Railroad Administration wants to know what transportation companies, safety experts and ordinary people think about the idea of driverless trains.

The Federal Railroad Administration released a "Request for Information" in March, asking for comments about "potential benefits, costs, risks and challenges to implementing automated railroad operations."

More than 3,300 people weighed in, with most of the comments urging regulators to use caution.

"Rails break. Cars pull out in front of trains. In Phoenix alone, we have three of the top 15 worst train crossings in America," said Scott Jones, who is the SMART union legislative director. That is the union that represents rail workers.

[RELATED: Safety work starting at crossing on 'most dangerous' list (Sept. 8, 2017)]

"I mean these trains, even at 15, 20 miles an hour, will tear a car in half," said Jones.

Jones says new technology has made trains safer, but he believes it's critical to continue to have an engineer and a conductor because of the "X" factors that autonomous technology can't replace.

Jones has pushed a bill that would require train companies to continue to use two-person crews, but so far, the bills have stalled at the state Legislature.

A representative from Union Pacific, which runs freight trains on the southern and central tracks in Arizona, responded to questions by saying the company has no plans to use autonomous trains.

[RELATED: City of Phoenix agrees to move traffic signal at dangerous railroad crossing]

At this point in time, only one company in Australia is running fully autonomous freight trains. It's the mining company, Rio Tinto.

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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