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Driverless trains

Driverless trains

As early as next year, China is set to roll out a new, faster generation of driverless magnetic levitation trains, according to its state media. These trains are medium-low-speed maglev, though still impressively quick. Built and developed independently in China by CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotives Co. Ltd., they will be the company's third generation of medium-low-speed maglev trains. The newly developed maglev prototype will run at a speed of 200 kph, 40 kph faster than the 2.0 version. CRRC Zhuzhou is a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation, one of the world's largest train manufacturers. While the 1.0 version has been running in Changsha, the capital city of China's Hunan Province – for two years, the 2.0 version is being assembled and tested in that city. Neither of those trains is capable of driving without a human controller, unlike the new version. The medium-low-speed maglevs are designed to improve intercity transport infrastructure, unlike high-speed versions, which are primarily used to connect major cities. Compared to traditional trains, maglevs are safer and quieter, lower than 70 decibels, quieter than a normal vacuum cleaner. The trains will be capable of ascending heights up to four stories in just 100 metres. The new train will also have a more "powerful brain" than its predecessors, allowing for safer autopilot operation, according to the company's chairman, Zhou Qinghe. When tests are done, the new maglev is expected to be used for intercity transit of 50-200 kilometres in distance. In addition to the maglev system in Changsha, Beijing added the capital city's first medium-low-speed maglev train to one of its subway lines within the city in late 2017. While the maglev technology has been developed and touted as the future of train transportation for decades, there are only a handful of countries operating maglev trains around the world: China, South Korea and Japan. Maglev trains use magnetic repulsion both to levitate the train up from the ground, which reduces friction, and to propel it forward. China's first commercial maglev system, a 30-kilometre stretch between Shanghai Pudong Airport and the city centre, opened in 2002. It runs up to around 400 kph and is the world's fastest commercial maglev system. Meanwhile, Japan has drafted plans to build a record-breaking maglev line, the Chuo Shinkansen, with a top speed of about 500 kph. The first phase of the project, connecting Tokyo and Nagoya, is scheduled to be completed in 2027 and is expected to cut travelling time between those cities by half. Man has certainly come a long way since the first steam engine rolled out. Indeed, evolution on the train track has turned a full circle. Given his will, man can achieve anything, even peaceful co-existence.

Editorial

Editorial

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