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China on fast track for driverless train

By Cheng Si | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-28 10:54

China is developing a "driverless" high-speed train that is expected to be put into use during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, a senior railway official has said.

He Huawu, special technical adviser to the general manager of China Railway Corp, said researchers are carrying out experiments on the new train in a section of railway between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.

He made the remarks at Modern Railways 2017, an exhibition in Shanghai that opened on Thursday, according to a report published on Thursday by the Shanghai-based news website The Paper.

He was quoted as saying the new train will be running during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games to show that "China has been ... going forward to develop a China model" for high-speed train.

Beijing and Zhangjiakou will co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Compared with existing high-speed trains, the driverless train will be safer, with a better on-time performance, he added, without giving further details, such as the train's speed. But he also said employees will be on standby while the train operates on its own.

Sun Zhang, a professor at the Institute of Railway and Urban Rail Transit of Tongji University in Shanghai, told China Daily that artificial intelligence is the future for high-speed trains. "As the train speed will be raised to 350 kilometers per hour or even faster in the future, it requires a higher standard for safety control. Man is not as reliable as machine in train operation, since man will be distracted by his emotions, health conditions and other unexpected situations, which may pose great danger to travelers' safety," he said.

Sensors in the train and satellite systems will make the control room safer and more reliable, he added.

Yang Hao, a professor at the School of Traffic and Transportation of Beijing Jiaotong University, agreed that driverless is the future of high-speed train development.

But how to make self-driving trains handle any emergencies-for example, obstructions on the tracks-remains the most important problem yet to be solved, he said.

Wang Lan, director of the R&D Center of the China Academy of Railway Sciences, said that both China and France are working to develop independent technology to produce a self-driving high-speed train to provide a safer environment for travelers.

SNCF, France's national train operator, reportedly will begin testing a "drone train" in 2019 and launch the self-driven high-speed train by 2023, according to France Info.

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