Learning from other modes of transport

In the world of transportation, continuous innovation is taking place in virtually every mode. Ideas spread quickly, influencing other modes in different forms. Is this cross-pollination just being copy-pasted, or is it coupled with a culture of learning from the other sector’s experience? This is a critical question when considering safety.

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Sharing safety concepts

The world of transportation has a long history of sectors learning from each other. Early aviation acquired much from its maritime counterparts, most recognizably the use of the red and green identifying lights.

Heads-up displays that allow pilots to keep ‘eyes outside’ have crossed over to the automotive industry, with cars designed to project essential information directly onto the windscreen. The airbag, standard on all cars, is being fitted by some airlines to lap belts on seats with an increased risk of head injury.

Aviation’s concept of the dark cockpit – extinguishing non-essential lights at night to reduce environmental stress – also appears in some cars. However, not all manufacturers are equally successful in the implementation. In a Hyundai’s “dark cockpit,” the clock and the door-lock indicator remain resolutely lit and highly visible.

Applying another’s lessons learned

As industries continue to borrow ideas from each other, the sharing of relevant multi-disciplinary safety knowledge can help avoid the problems and pitfalls that arise. Understanding the original sector’s experience provides an important safety benefit when adopting the practice of others.

A plan by Dutch railway infrastructure operator ProRail may provide an illustrative case for cross-discipline learning. ProRail is taking inspiration from the automotive industry to test driverless trains, although they propose retaining a driver as safety monitor.

However, experience in the aviation industry has shown a problem with persons monitoring systems that almost always work. The lack of current hands-on flying experience has been identified as a negative effect of automation. Theorising how to “handle” this brings us to a safety lesson from within the railway industry: the dead man’s handle. The ongoing investigation into the November 2016 tram crash in Croydon, UK, suggests this system may not be infallible.

Better accident prevention with multi-disciplinary safety boards

With many industries looking to take advantage of innovations from outside their field, the need for multi-disciplinary safety boards is increasing. Worldwide, the number of multi-disciplinary investigative boards for transportation safety is still small, but growing. Whilst the rise in numbers is laudable, we would argue there is still much to be done in helping each other to avoid known safety issues.

The greatest benefit of the cross-fertilization within multi-disciplinary safety boards, is the opportunity to learn from prior experience. Intimate knowledge of safety problems that have arisen earlier provide important lessons the new sector might not have considered.

We look forward to more and better inter-disciplinary work between transport modes on improving safety before accidents occur. We would also encourage accident reports where an in-depth cross-disciplinary investigation is applied to explain the accident.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com

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