French rail chiefs SNCF have revealed ambitious plans for France to become the first country in the world to roll out driverless high speed trains, according to France TV info.
While passengers have a while to get used to the idea – it won’t happen before 2022 and that’s if all the tests go according to plan, it looks like one day they will have to contemplate taking a train from Paris to Marseille or Bordeaux that has a robot instead of an old fashioned driver.
“We will become the first in the world to put into service an autonomous train on a high-speed commercial rail line,” SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy told Le Figaro newspaper:
However passengers can be reassured than SNCF doesn't plan to leave them alone on the train without someone who knows how to operate it.
SNCF told France TV Info the system will more like the automatic pilot systems used on airplanes rather than scrapping drivers altogether.
The “driver” will be on board to handle any unexpected events but the rest will be done automatically.
Up until now driverless trains have become common on Metro systems around the world, but in cities trains only travel at around 50km/h and are mainly in tunnels.
A TGV hurtles through the French countryside at 320km/h so the technology needed will be somewhat more complex.
“When you automate a Metro, you can put barriers along the platforms and then you are in tunnels,” says SNCF's Matthieu Chabanel.
“A train is going to run on a high-speed line for 1,000 km, in a completely open environment with trees, animals, people, who can get onto the tracks and so we need a driver to handle all the possible disruptions.”
SNCF say driverless trains are not about saving money on personnel but on making the service more effective and getting more TGV's onto the tracks.
By 2019, SNCF hopes to be able to test a prototype but only on trains carrying freight.