The world's first Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (RAT) made a successful maiden voyage in Central China's Hunan Province on October 23, but its safety and efficiency remain to be further tested, experts said on October 24.
The "rail-less train" had its trial run from Shennong Grand Theatre to the Zhuzhou Sports Center in the city of Zhuzhou, carrying passengers more than three kilometers, the chinanews.com reported.
The train is electric with zero emissions and economical and environmentally-friendly, and can go 25 kilometers on a 10-minute charge and "it operates on virtual tracks with vehicle-mounted sensors and can adjust its traction, braking and direction as ordered," said Feng Jianghua, chief engineer of the CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co, the transit vehicle's designer.
The cost of a subway line is about 400 million yuan ($60 million)-700 million every kilometer and a tram line costs about 15 million-200 million yuan, while the total cost of the RAT line is only about a fifth of that, Feng told Southern Metropolitan Daily back in June.
There are expected to be three of these rail-less trains running along a 3.1-kilometer virtual track in its first phase of service, around next Spring Festival, according to the chinanews.com report.
Sun Zhang, a professor at Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times that the vehicle comes with about 30 technology patents, but still needs to be tested and "whether the RAT can avoid getting jammed in or can run on schedule remains to be determined." It might have to have a special lane designed for the RAT, Sun said.
According to Feng, the vehicle can warn of and avoid any danger nearby automatically and, by 2019, it can be semi-automated and by 2020 completely driver-less.
The train is 31.64 meters long and 2.65 meters wide and can carry up to 500 people at a speed of up to 70 kilometers per hour.