‘Smart train’: China unveils world’s first electric trackless rail-bus

  • Using virtual rail lines on the streets of Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, the new Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) system can travel up to speeds of 43 mph
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ZHUZHOU – A self-driving electric-powered vehicle that is like a train, but doesn’t run on tracks, made its first journey in Chinese city Zhuzhou earlier this month.

Using virtual rail lines on the streets of Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, the new Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) system can travel up to speeds of 43 mph.

China’s CRRC Corporation, which is one of the world’s biggest train manufacturers, started working on the new technology in 2013 and the system is expected to be rolled out to other cities next year.

The trains carry up to 300 passengers and the new system is a cheaper and greener alternative than building new train or tram tracks.

The locomotive is 31.64m long that can easily make its turns. Its twin-head system completely eliminates the need to make U-turns as well.

People’s Daily Online reported 10 minutes of charging can propel the train for 15.5 miles and each train will have a life-span of around 25 years.

The train has rubber wheels with a plastic core that makes it run smoothly without the need of actual tracks. The design has been copyrighted by the Corporation.

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The invisible railway uses dotted lines painted on the road and three ‘smart trains’ currently have drivers but are expected to be automated in the future.

Chief engineer Feng Jianghua explained the train uses hi-tech sensors to judge distances by the millimeter and continually collects travel information as it moves.

The system is also significantly cheaper to install than a subway system – which in China typically costs between £45 and £80 million. CRRC estimates the construction and implementation of a rail-bus network at about 20 per cent of this.

In July this year, an overhead monorail train had been put into trial operation in eastern China

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The ‘Skytrain’, which is undergoing trial operation in Qingdao City in Shandong province, has a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour, the fastest of its kind in China.

Also, the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) recently revealed its plans to soon build a supersonic ‘flying train’ capable of reaching speeds of up to 4000km/h.