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SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY : Rockwell Banking On Aerospace Know-How to Swing Rail Car Deal

April 27, 1993|Dean Takahashi / Times staff writer

Rockwell International Corp.'s Defense Electronics unit in Anaheim is banking on using its aerospace technology in a partnership with trading giant Sumitomo Corp. and rail-car maker Nippon Sharyo Ltd. to build 87 cars for Los Angeles' light rail train system.

In a joint bid submitted Monday to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Rockwell contemplates adding three of its home-grown technologies to the rail cars for the 14-mile Green Line, said Earl Washington, vice president for transportation at Defense Electronics.

Rockwell is proposing to use its sensor technology to create a hazard detection system that would allow train drivers to identify hazards on rails and stop well in advance, avoiding a collision.

Another technology is called adaptive noise cancellation, which could reduce noise in rail cars by sending out audio signals that "cancel" loud sounds such as cooling units make. Finally, the company might deploy a wiring system that could reduce the number of wires used in the rail cars, saving on power consumption and wire costs. The system would make better use of wiring by sending out a number of signals over the same set of wires.

"If they like these ideas," Washington said of the Transportation Authority, "they can be applied midway in the production. It provides us with an opportunity for defense conversion. We are trying to save the jobs that we have."

Rockwell's defense business has been sliding as a result of defense budget cuts in the past several years. The Anaheim operation cut thousands of people during the past several years, leaving it with about 4,000, compared to about 6,400 in October, 1991.

The three partners also foresee use of the technologies in future rail systems in Japan. They formed a strategic relationship last week for that purpose.

Selection of a winner on the Green Line contract, which could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, is expected in May. The line will run from the San Gabriel River Freeway in Downey to Los Angeles International Airport.

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