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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Every mode of transportation is going autonomous, and the railways will be no different.

 

The French national railway company, SNCF, has announced that it has begun working on semi-autonomous high speed trains that will top out at 300km/h, and it hopes to have a working prototype by 2019, and then a final production version in operation by 2023.

 

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The company, which was founded in 1938 and owned by the French government, was also quick to state that there will be still be actual people manning the trains.

“On the high speed routes, we are aiming for automation in the sense of automatic steering as in aircraft. In aircraft, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system,” says Matthieu Chabanel who’s running the project.

Do you think we should tell him that Boeing is looking at taking that final pilot out of the cockpit or let him find out when he reads about it on this blog? It seems a shame to burst his bubble, or buble as they say in France…

 

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Anyway… the goal of the new program is to improve the regularity and consistency of SNCF’s trains, especially in the crowded Paris region, and as any commuter familiar with rail travel can tell you even the slightest delay can have a big impact on a rail operators service – something that I find ironic as I’m sitting on the floor next to the toilet of an over crowded South East Rail train after leaving London today.

“We are going to go from 180 seconds to 108 seconds between two trains,” says Alain Krakovitch, the director of the SNCF Transilien network, “up to 25 percent more trains can travel on a line with autonomous trains with the help of autonomous braking and acceleration. A human driver will still deal with unexpected situations, the type that can lead to crashes.”

While the SNCF might be the first railway in the world to incorporate automation, Chanbanel wants to throw water on the idea that the company is cutting edge or experimental. Do I hear the marketing department on the phone there? Ha.

 

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“The goal,” he says, “is to have something that corresponds to the clients need. It is not to make dreams of engineers.”

So sorry engineers, no Hyperloop for you… unless that is you’re planning on riding the Hyperloop that Dubai are going to building out in 2021.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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