Ride quality is one of the key factors determining public acceptance and usage of train for both transit and long-haul purposes. The experience of the ride must be pleasant, or the rider has a strong motivation to find an alternative. In today’s world it is important to promote the use of the vastly more efficient and environmentally friendly option of rail transport whenever possible. Unfortunately, measuring ride quality has historically been quite difficult, because the quality of ride is affected by multiple factors – individual cars’ suspension, wheels, or the rail itself – and can be composed of any combination of vertical bounce/vibration, sideways sway, or lurching forward or back. This requires high-speed three-dimensional vibration data collection, with the capability to match specific vibrations to particular locations and times on a track, thus allowing the railroad to determine whether the car, wheels, or track itself are to blame for specific events seen in the measuring process.

One of IEM’s latest projects is the development of a unique, self-contained Ride Quality Measurement System. Taking advantage of IEM’s patented miniature low-power wireless sensor technology and advances in MEMS multiaxis accelerometers and miniature GPS systems, the Ride Quality Measurement System accurately measures and records vibrations in all three axes of movement at high speed, matching them with the current position of the car to which the sensor node is affixed.