Safety Interlocking as a Distributed Mutual Exclusion Problem

  • Alessandro FantechiEmail author
  • Anne E. Haxthausen
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11119)


In several large scale systems (e.g. robotic plants or transportation systems) safety is guaranteed by granting to some process or physical object an exclusive access to a particular set of physical areas or objects before starting its own action: some mechanism should in this case interlock the action of the former with the availability of the latter. A typical example is the railway interlocking problem, in which a train is granted the authorisation to move only if the tracks in front of the train are free. Although centralised control solutions have been implemented since decades, the current quest for autonomy and the possibility of distributing computational elements without wired connection for communication or energy supply has raised the interest in distributed solutions, that have to take into account the physical topology of the controlled areas and guarantee the same level of safety. In this paper the interlocking problem is formalised as a particular class of distributed mutual exclusion problems, addressing simultaneous locking of a pool of distributed objects, focusing on the formalisation and verification of the required safety properties. A family of distributed algorithms solving this problem is envisioned, with variants related to where the data defining the pool’s topology reside, and to how such data rules the communication between nodes. The different variants are exemplified with references to different distributed railway interlocking algorithms proposed in the literature. A final discussion is devoted to the steps needed to convert the proposed definitions into a generic plug-and-play safety-certified solution.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DINFO, University of FlorenceFirenzeItaly
  2. 2.DTU Compute, Technical University of DenmarkLyngbyDenmark

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