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There are systems that do what you suggest...and they are uniformly hated. When these systems have an error, they apply the train brakes. Unfortunately, they can do that on a hill and stall a train so that it wouldn't be able to restart. Or, they can stop it while it's in a metro area...and block many intersections. They sometimes don't reset...and the brakes stay locked and the engineer can't get the train moving again. Like I said...uniformly hated.

The way this is supposed to work is that the engineer AND the conductor are BOTH supposed to call out the signals on their radios to each other. Further, trains have an enuciator in the cab that the engineer has to push about every minute. That tells the engine that he's still alive. If he doesn't push the button, the train applies the brakes.

The conductor lived. The engineer didn't. As this unfolds, the conductors story should prove interesting as the train passed two yellows and a red. Lastly, the UP freight had a crash camera...so the whole crash is recorded and is in the hands of the NTSB. Should make good YouTube viewing in less than a month.
 
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