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No one at the helm

Self-driving trains pilot project is on the horizon

Trains without drivers could be in operation on open stretches of track in Switzerland within two to three years.

According to Swiss public radio, SRF, the ‘Südostbahn’, South-East Railways, which operates between St Gallen and Lucerne, is planning a pilot project with self-driving trains. A pre-study is near completion.

The director of the railway company, Thomas Küchler, did not want to be drawn on which stretch the trains would be trialled on, but said that: “we see stretches where we could really implement it”.

There are already two train systems without drivers in Switzerland – a shuttle at Zurich airport, and the metro in Lausanne. However, the rails in both of these networks are closed off, as they run underground. Essentially, this means that no one can fall onto the tracks, and there are no points where the trains cross with others.

The trial would aim to test the self-driving trains in a place without too many people, but still to get a feel for how it would work in public. The trains would be fitted with sensors that should detect objects on the rails and bring the train to a stop.

The Federal Office of Transport now has to give its approval for the test runs and financing for the project.  

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