5 Feb 19

Self-driving trains in 3 years...?

There is a great deal of talk about self-driving cars throughout the world, so perhaps it’s time to take a look at another form of autonomous smart mobility – self-driving trains.

French train operator SNCF, via its Innovation and Research Director Carole Desnost, has announced that the company is preparing for this. She was speaking at a conference in Bordeaux recently, and said that the SNCF was currently preparing to have autonomous trains ready by 2022-2023. She described this move as the third train revolution, following electrification and high speed trains.

However, she went on to point out that the thinking behind autonomous trains is different from that behind autonomous cars (allowing the driver to work instead of driving, among others). It is quite simply to increase capacity on the existing rail infrastructure. The SNCF is expecting to see demand rise by 20-30%, particularly on TGV routes, and constructing new lines is not on the cards. Autonomous trains would enable the distance between trains to be reduced because the system would know exactly where every train is. Using the popular Paris-Lyon route as an example, Carole Desnost said that the schedule would be able to be increased by three more trains an hour, with a capacity of 4,000 extra passengers.

This is not necessarily bad news for train drivers, however. Just as has so far been the case with self-driving cars, a driver would still have to be on board to take over if circumstances require.  

(Image: tgveurofrance)

Authored by: Tim Harrup