Scientists at the UK's University of Birmingham have developed a new smartphone app that allows passengers to use their mobile phones and help rail companies globally improve the ride quality on their trains. 

With the information collected by the app, railway companies will get instant feedback from passengers with regard to bumps, bangs and vibrations on their trains.

The study used artificial neural networks to map data gathered from smartphones to evaluate ride quality. It revealed that accelerometers found in modern smartphones can be used to measure ride comfort.

University of Birmingham Railway and Civil Engineering senior lecturer Dr Sakdirat Kaewunruen said: “Making passengers feel comfortable aboard their trains is something many railway companies strive to do. With the advent of smartphones, passengers can potentially measure the ride comfort themselves.

“Our research opens the door for many opportunities, allowing passengers to provide instant feedback on the comfort of their journey and equipping railway companies with information they can use to further improve ride comfort for passengers.

"With the advent of smartphones, passengers can potentially measure the ride comfort themselves."

“There is also potential for this technology to be used to detect track faults and indicate which sections of track are in need of maintenance, possibly saving on maintenance costs and improving the safety of the railway.”

As part of the study, a smartphone app was used by researchers to record vibration data from a train running on a test track and compared with information gathered bu a reference accelerometer.

It was found that the technology used in modern smartphones is good enough to measure ride comfort on trains.

Vibrations in trains may be due to welding and rolling defects, rail joints, poor track alignments, and various defects or roughness in the track or wheel surfaces.


Image: Information collected by the app would give railway companies instant feedback from passengers about bumps, bangs and vibration on their trains. Photo: © University of Birmingham.