Today we are living in a world where everything has become automatic while manual efforts have become minimal. Autonomous vehicle technology is one such concept which is currently being explored to its core. Recently, a Rail transit firm in China named CRRC has introduced a train that runs on the road instead of rails. This is the world’s first train that doesn’t need rails to travel; rather it uses virtual dotted lines on the road for transit.
The technology has been termed as ART i.e. Autonomous Rail Transit while the vehicle has been labeled as a “Smart Bus” by CRRC. It’s a 30-meter long bus which is operated electrically and is fitted with sensors that follow the virtual rails on the road while adapting to the surroundings and situations in real time.
CRRC Introduces World’s first Driverless Rail Transit in China (Image Courtesy: Designboom)
Design & Concept
China’s railcar-maker CRRC has recently unveiled a bus-rail combo road transit system in Zhuzhou, Hunan province. The Chinese Rail Corporation began designing this system in 2013 and now finally in June 2017, the system has been tested successfully.
Apart from being fast, this railless transit is highly economical in terms of its construction. It takes 400-700 Million Yuan i.e. USD 58-102 Million to build one kilometer of subway while the electric streetcars carry a development cost of around 150-200 Million Yuan per km.
However, ART i.e. Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit will cost one-fifth of the amount of a conventional metro. As per the reports, a standard-length ART bus can be constructed with just 15 Million Yuan i.e. USD 2.2 Million or even less.
Animated Representation of China’s Autonomous Rail Transit (Image Courtesy: YouTube)
This vehicle developed by CRRC is a hybrid of a bus and train with a certain resemblance to a Tram. It’s fitted with rubber wheels and travels on the road much like a regular bus with a larger carrying capacity. The carriages on the vehicle can be altered by adding or removing carriages depending upon the requirement.
Dimensionally, it’s 3.4 meters high, 2.65 meters wide, and 31.64 meters long. Besides, it has a safe channel width of 3.83 meters and a minimum turning radius of 15 meters which renders flexibility in its movements, particularly while taking turns. An important aspect of its design is that the body structure of this smart bus is claimed to have a long life of 25+ years implying economic viability.
Animated Presentation of ART’s Interior Layout (Image Courtesy: YouTube)
Moving to the interiors of the smart bus, there is a lot of space with a carrying capacity of 307 passengers. A unique feature of the vehicle is that its carriages are detachable, thereby allowing the flexibility to add or remove carriages as per the requirement.
Further, there are baby and mother priority seats along with adequate space for passengers in a wheelchair. From inside, it appears much like a subway fitted with digital displays, comfortable seats, and an adequate amount of space.
Collision Warning System Equipped with China’s Autonomous Rail Transit
(Image Courtesy: YouTube)
Just like any other autonomous vehicle, this transit features advanced functionality which, in turn, reduces manual efforts on the part of the driver. These functions include:
Lane Departure Warning System
This system aids in guiding the vehicle to keep running on its track and warns whenever it drifts away from the lane.
Electronic Rearview Mirror
These kinds of rearview mirrors are electrically adjustable and render a clearer view. Besides, these are also equipped with auto dimming technology to reduce the glare.
Collision Warning System
The collision warning helps the driver to maintain a safe distance with other vehicles on the road and whenever the proximity reduces, it shows a sign so as to provide a warning.
Route Change Authorization
The navigation facility equipped with the vehicle can analyze the route on which it’s traveling and re-directs for a different route in order to avoid traffic congestion.
• No physical track limit of the transit enabling flexible operations
• Intelligent signal communication and control for priority pass
• Multi-axle steering system
• Autonomous Railless Traction
• Low construction cost and environment-friendly
Pictorial Representation of ART’s Terminal Flash Charging (Image Courtesy: YouTube)
Since it’s an autonomous, all-electrical vehicle, the role of the powertrain is played by the batteries. The smart bus is packed with lithium titanate batteries and there is flash charging facility which enables the railless train to cover more than 25kms i.e. 15 miles in just 10 minutes of charging. Moreover, with full charge, the vehicle can cover up to 40kms. As far as the top speed is concerned, the needle on the speedometer of the autonomous train can cross 43 mph or 70 kmph.
China’s Autonomous Rail-Rapid Transit being tested in Zhuzhou (Image Courtesy: boredpanda)
Automated Rail Transit is a non-polluting, rail-less, and driver-less vehicle that is expected to reduce traffic congestion in the highly populated cities of China. It’s expected that the transit will be implemented in Zhuzhou by the year 2018 with a total length of 6.5 kms. After completion, it will dock with the city’s mid-low speed maglev train.
If things turn out as per the plans, this train could become a huge success in the coming years. Owing to its low development cost and a large carrying capacity, China’s road congestion can be reduced significantly. Besides, the vehicle is not only environment-friendly but it can also stand various kinds of weather conditions.
All the above factors make CRRC’s ART an ideal system for suburb to downtown transit. However, it’s too soon to tell as to how far China’s technology would be driven by this hybrid, smart bus.