In a recent report, France's state-run railway operator SNCF is working closely to a driverless high-speed train for its national rail system, called "drone trains" on the tracks. The company is planning to test "drone trains" next year, with hopes that the TGV trains will start running four years after that. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy noted that they will be the world's first operator to run a high-speed autonomous train if this project will become successful.
According to a source, the train operator SNCF believes that it can run 25 percent more trains between Paris and Lyon using this technology, and cut the time between trains from 180 seconds to 108 seconds. The driverless train would be packed with external sensors that would enable it to detect obstacles on the tracks and automatically brake if necessary. Considering the "open environment" of this kind of operations, conductors would continue to ride along for a while after the system is initiated, if an instance, emergencies or unexpected events. Reports claim that this is an apparent difference from Paris' automated subways, which does not require such security measures.
The SNCF anticipates the service to start in six years, and initial trials of the so-called "drone trains" should begin next year. NCF adjoint director Matthieu Chabanel will be on par with the drone trains to autopilot systems aboard an airplane. Through the drone trains, SNCF expects to ramp up the frequency and speed of TGV trips, especially around Paris.
A team of ten people is devoted to the project, and they are teaming up with research institutions and other rail companies like Alstom. On the other note, Elon Musk launched his tunnel boring company this 2017. Tesla CEO plans to build a huge underground network of tunnels in California including 30 levels of tunnels for cars and high-speed trains.