China’s £120MILLION autonomous, trackless train that runs on virtual rails launches its first commercial line in Sichuan

  • A vast array of sensors on the train allow it to measure road dimensions ahead 
  • The train then plots a route accordingly and drives around autonomously
  • It is estimated the new form of transport will be used by 25,000 people a day  

A futuristic train that runs on virtual tracks has opened its doors to passengers for the first time in Sichuan, China

The bizarre concept of a locomotive that uses a network of sensors instead of traditional tracks was first revealed two years ago, but has only gone live this month. 

The ART T1 monitors road dimensions and plots its own route instead of being fixed to physical tracks. 

The virtual railway, which runs for 11 miles (17.7 km) through the middle of the city Yibin, cost an estimated 1.128 billion yuan (£120million) to build.

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The bizarre concept of a locomotive that doesn't need traditional tracks is being pioneered in China, with it now being the first to open for commercial use (pictured)

The bizarre concept of a locomotive that doesn’t need traditional tracks is being pioneered in China, with it now being the first to open for commercial use (pictured)

The virtual tracks runs for 11 miles (17.7 km) through the middle of the city Yibin and cost an estimated 1.128 billion yuan (£120million)

The virtual tracks runs for 11 miles (17.7 km) through the middle of the city Yibin and cost an estimated 1.128 billion yuan (£120million)

The Yibin ART T1 line train could travel as quickly as 43mph (70kmh) and carry as many as 300 passengers at a time

The Yibin ART T1 line train could travel as quickly as 43mph (70kmh) and carry as many as 300 passengers at a time

A human will sit behind the controls of the vehicle, but will not drive it. 

Their role is to be alert in case of failure or emergency. If the train strays outside the designated yellow lines or an obstruction is in place it will automatically switch to manual mode. 

A combination of LIDAR and GPS will guide the train through the streets, in a similar was to autonomous cars being developed around the world.  

It is thought that up to 10,000 passengers will use the new train every day, rising to 25,000 after it is connected to the nearby high-speed rail network.

The Yibin ART T1 line train could travel as quickly as 43mph (70kmh) and carry as many as 300 passengers at a time.

The rail system, called ART or Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit, has been developed by China’s CRRC Corporation Limited, one of the world’s largest train manufacturers.

CHINA’S SMART RAIL

The CRRC Corporation Limited began designing the new system in 2013.

The transit system uses rubber wheels on a plastic core and has new technology copyrighted by the rail corporation. 

The track-less train is said to have a life-span of around 25 years. 

After 10 minutes of charging, the train can travel 25 kilometres (15.5 miles). 

It’s intention is to speed up public transportation of Zhuzhou, a city with about four million residents, before being popularised to other parts of China. 

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The invisible railway measures 3.75 metres (12.3 feet) wide and is embodied by dotted lines painted on the road.

According to Feng Jianghua, chief engineer of the train who spoke in 2017, the virtual railway system is much cheaper to build compared to a tram or subway system.

Mr Feng said it would cost 150 to 200 million yuan (£17 to 23 million) to build one kilometre (0.6 miles) of tramway in China, but with the high-tech virtual line, the cost would be reduced to 50 to 100 million yuan (£5.7 to 11.4 million) for the same distance.

Mr Feng also said the train identifies the pavement and has various sensors to collect travel information.

It was first revealed in the town of Zhuzhou two years ago by CRRC Corporation Limited as part of a publicity stunt, but production of the train took longer than expected, taking it over the predicted timeline by more than a year.  

It was first revealed two years ago by CRRC Corporation Limited as part of a publicity stunt, but production of the train took longer than expected, taking it over the predicted timeline by more than a year

It was first revealed two years ago by CRRC Corporation Limited as part of a publicity stunt, but production of the train took longer than expected, taking it over the predicted timeline by more than a year

The invisible railway measures 3.75 metres (12.3 feet) wide and is embodied by dotted lines painted on the road. Pictured, during its initial unveiling in 2017

The invisible railway measures 3.75 metres (12.3 feet) wide and is embodied by dotted lines painted on the road. Pictured, during its initial unveiling in 2017





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