According to a report by The Daily Mail, China recently announced its plans to put a new driverless magnetic levitation train into operation as soon as 2020.
Xinhua News Agency, China’s state-run media organization, announced the country’s goal to introduce a new line of trains that will be faster and quieter and could operate without a driver at the wheel.
The magnetic levitation technology, or “maglev” for short, allows the train to run along the tracks without actually touching anything through the use of magnetism. This ability to “hover” permits the trains to run faster and quieter as there is no friction or traditional braking system.
According to CNN, this maglev technology makes the trains no louder than a vacuum.
The current version of maglev trains in operation in Changsha, China, require a human behind the controls and run at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour or nearly 100 miles per hour.
This upcoming third generation will run at speeds of 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) and will not require human interaction to operate.
Zhou Qinghe, chairman of CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotives Co. Ltd., the company behind the creation of the trains, says that the new “powerful brain” will make the trains safer and more autonomous.
He also added that they’re “like a roller coaster” when ascending hills and can traverse four stories in as little as 100 meters (328 feet).
China is hoping to use these new driverless maglevs for intercity transit. This means the trains would be covering distances anywhere from 50 to 200 kilometers (31 to 124 miles) between cities.
The firsts maglev train line China opened was the track between the Shanghai Pudong Airport and Shanghai’s city center in 2002. The project was a joint collaboration of Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co. Ltd. and an association of multiple German businesses.
This line can reach speeds of 400 kilometers per hour (248 miles per hour) and is considered one of the world’s fastest maglev trains.
The Daily Mail states that higher speeds are difficult as air resistance creates significant friction. But it is theorized that faster speeds would be possible utilizing a vacuum tube that would cut down on air resistance and theoretically provide up to seven times the velocity.
China currently has the world’s largest network of high-speed railways. Xinhua News Agency claims the total length of track equals 25,000 kilometers (15,534 miles).
The cost of construction on these railways between 2016 and 2020 was estimated to be around 2.8 trillion yuan, or $417 billion.
The significant population of the Shanghai area appears to be a strong motivator for the Chinese government to implement public transportation systems to facilitate its people. The news of these driverless maglev trains is considered an intriguing step of automation in the railway industry.