Commuter Rail Maintenance to Use Virtual Reality Goggles

Because if there's one thing that can improve service, it's a pair of glasses.

commuter rail

Photo by Margaret Burdge

Maintenance workers for Keolis Commuter Services, operator of the MBTA’s commuter rail, just got a new accessory for their uniform.

Next month, they’ll begin to test out virtual reality goggles to aid in train maintenance. This seems a little contradictory, as the Boston Globe points out, considering the MBTA has advised passengers to avoid wearing virtual reality headsets aboard subways.

Yet, the goggles, which are like a heavy-duty version of Google Glass, are supposed to help Keolis workers fix out-of-service trains faster. The Globe reports that the glasses will send images to the company’s expert maintenance team based in a Boston office. This is meant to speed up the repair process, so maintenance teams can communicate with field mechanics without having to waste time traveling to broken-down trains (in turn, minimizing delays).

The smart goggles will come from a Cambridge-based startup called AMA XPertEye. According to MIT Technology Review, Keolis will test the glasses in three locations: on a set of Somerville tracks near an MBTA maintenance facility, at a facility in Readville, and at another facility at the end of one of the MBTA lines. Keolis’ manager for operation planning and performance improvement told the Review that the new technology should help keep more trains in service as they continue to combat Nor’easters and aging infrastructure.

The test period is scheduled for the month of September. If all goes well, train operators may be given glasses, too, so they can make emergency repairs. The Review notes that drivers currently use a radio for these repairs, working from voice directions to fix problems.

Will riding the commuter rail become a futuristic experience where all train personnel wear shiny, high-tech gear from head to toe? Time will tell.