China’s first train that runs on virtual tracks the “Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit,” (ART T1) has transported passengers in Sichuan, China. ART T1 was developed by China’s CRRC Corporation Limited, one of the world leaders in train manufacturing.
The train uses a network of road sensors and cameras which give it the ability to map its course, thus eliminating the need for tracks. Dotted lines painted on the road serve as the invisible tracks for the train to run, and measure 12.3 feet (3.75 meters) wide.
The Yibin ART T1 line, located in Sichuan, is 17.7 kilometers long and is expected to serve 10,000 passengers per day with plans to extend the line to a high-speed railway station. After the extension is complete they are expecting it will transfer some 25,000 people every day.
Currently, the train is equipped to carry up to 300 passengers at a time and can travel at speeds up to 43mph (70kmh).
ART T1 was originally revealed in 2017 but has taken longer than originally thought. In 2017, chief engineer Feng Jianghua said that the virtual railway system is much cheaper to build compared to a tram or subway system.
They estimated the building cost of the current system to be around 1.128 billion yuan or around $164.4 million U.S.
Mr. Feng said a line of traditional railway tracks that cost 150 to 200 million yuan would equate to between 50-100 million yuan with this new system.
As for the safety of the train, a human will sit behind the controls for monitoring in case of an emergency or failure. The train is designated to stay inside the designated yellow lines and uses its sensors to identify the pavement and collect travel information.
Should an emergency arrive and the train goes outside of its designated areas, it will automatically switch over to manual mode and the conductor will take over.
Similar to the autonomous cars being developed, the train will use a combination of LIDAR and GPS to guide it through the streets.
According to shanghai.ist the train is reportedly going to be used in Doha, Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.