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How to Move More Goods Through America's Clogged Infrastructure? Robot Trains

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An autonomous passenger train with systems built by locomotive manufacturer Alstom is currently being tested by the French national state-owned rail company SNCF.

The first fully-autonomous subway train made its debut in Kobe, Japan in 1981, and the technology has proliferated ever since, spreading from Paris to New Delhi, and So Paulo to Vancouver.

Credit: Samuel Dhote/Alstom

Autonomous trains increasingly are seen as a solution to U.S. truck driver shortages, as well as a way for companies to reduce carbon emissions.

Florida A&M University's Maxim A. Dulebenets predicts that "trains are going to reach full autonomy faster than vehicles," especially since hundreds of passenger trains worldwide already operate autonomously as part of urban transportation systems.

However, most autonomous trains are built on newer, dedicated tracks that are not shared with human-controlled trains and generally do not include hazards like highway crossings.

Dulebenets said automating the U.S. rail network, in which multiple private rail companies share many lines, "could take decades."

There also are concerns about safety and cybersecurity.

From The Wall Street Journal
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