Is there a future for driverless trains?

Does the new Heathrow pod system herald a new advance in driver-less, personal transport?  Are we likely to see major changes in rail-based transport systems?  Previously on this blog we’ve talked about interesting ideas for high-speed rail.  This article on the BBC highlighted a number of technologies especially around high speed

What we found interesting is the point made right at the bottom of the piece about the value in performance of removing the human driver. The claim (note, not sourced) is that driverless systems are 30% more efficient than those with an unreliable human at the controls.

Driverless trains are often a contentiousness issue.  Claims are usually made that it will decrease safety.  We’re not aware of the evidence for this and note that these claims are frequently made by trade unions who do have another agenda.  It often seems that as passengers we want the security of knowing that there is a person in the cab – but it’s likely that most people don’t know the extent of automation on the Underground for example.  One can see the advantages with driverless systems – not least losing the problem of the train not running as the driver isn’t available!  Perhaps one question is how to these automated trains deal with perturbed or emergency situations – how are the passengers kept informed? Who is there to help them?



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