France’s state-owned railway company SNCF is planning to develop autonomous trains with help from Hitachi, reports Nikkei Asian Review.
The autonomous train industry has so far been dominated Chinese and Japanese rail makers.
According to Transparency Market Research report, railways are considered the most efficient and safe means of transportation compared to highways due to fewer number of accidents recorded.
Needless to say, the key components driving the autonomous trains market are increased safety, speed and efficiency.
SNCF has stated that it plans to begin operating trains in 2023 which are capable of handling acceleration and deceleration on their own but could still have operators on board.
The French railway company will expand the project to its TGV high-speed intercity service in 2025, and roll out fully autonomous service on regional lines that year.
Autonomous trains will be able to transport more people using less energy, SNCF President Guillaume Pepy told reporters.
The project’s cost is estimated at $66 million, with the French government and SNCF shouldering 30% each.
The remaining 40% of the costs will be taken on by private-sector participants including Hitachi’s Italian subsidiary Ansaldo STS; French multinationals Alstom, a train builder, and Thales, a defense equipment maker; and German auto parts maker Robert Bosch.
Cameras and radars will capture the trains’ surroundings to read traffic signals and identify obstacles, and artificial intelligence will be used to adjust speed.
Security mechanisms will also be developed to block system hijacking, reports SNCF.
An autonomous subway system is already operating in France, but factors such as snowfall make it difficult to run above ground.
The Nikkei contends that train speeds often operate faster than cars, so the system must be able to respond instantly – such as when an obstacle appears suddenly.
Image credits and content: Bonjour La France/Nikkei Asian Review