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Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 4 Nov 1999 12:08:15 -0500
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> [Borgia]
>
> Ben,
>
> I forwarded the message to a friend looking for an Ada job and made the same
> interpretation.  I now suspect that this is an FAA job at Lockheed Martin in
> Rockville, Maryland.
>
> Some sort of automation controls the rail operations of the DC metro while
> an operator rides aboard the train to open the doors and announce the stops.
> However, the operators have been running the trains manually for the past
> few months as they have encountered several problems with the automatic
> system.  I believe that it comes from the mid-seventies, so it was long
> before Ada's time.
>
> Bill Borgia
>
I think you are right on both counts. There's still a lot of FAA
work going on with Ada in Rockville. Judith of L-M gave an invited talk
on this at SIGAda '98 here in DC. Her foils are online at

http://www.acm.org/sigada/conf/sa98

which has a link to all the papers and invited talks.

RE: the DC Metro - AFAIK the central system software goes back to
the mid-70s, way before Ada. Metro is secretive (terrorism paranoia?)
and I've never been able to find out much.

However, since Metro has been ordering its railcars from Europe
(Breda in Italy is the prime contractor), it is conceivable that
there's some Ada in the on-board systems in the newer trains.
I have no idea how we could find this out, though.

According to recent stories in the Washington press,
the problems with the automatic system are coming not from the
software but from a low-tech part of it, namely the thousands of
old relays. After some legal wrangling with the supplier, they'll
be replacing these.

Interestingly, the automatic system drives trains better than the
humans do. Metro has had, recently, a recurring problem with
the train brake systems - they are wearing out faster than
expected because the human drivers don;t apply them as smoothly
as the automatic system does. _Nothing_ is easy in this business!

A more interesting factoid is that Ada could be coming to the
New York subway in large quantities. NYCTA is doing some prototyping
of automatic controls using (among other apparently competing systems)
the system used in Paris in the new Line 14. There is a piece on Line 14
(a.k.a. Meteor) in the project briefs library linked from

http://www.acm.org/sigada/education

The story there is a bit old; the line has been in operation now
for exactly a year, running without drivers in the trains, and
(as far as I know from the French rail stuff I read) without
problems. This one line (of 14 urban metro and 4 express metro
lines) is carrying about 100,000 pasengers a day.

The New York project will not eliminate human operators, among
other reasons because trains will switch between automatically
and manually switched lines for many years till they do the whole
system. They are first doing a piece of a lightly-traveled
shuttle service, then one full line (Canarsie) where trains
run end-to-end without switching lines, then (presumably) they'll
start converting the whole system. If the Meteor system wins
the competition, Ada will be all over (and under) New York.

One of these days I'll try to write this up; I want to try to get
more info first. So far, everything I know is from some French
stuff I read. Maybe someone in France or New York can dig out
more?

Cheers -

Mike Feldman

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