China unveils world’s first rail-free, self-driving “train”

A Chinese electric locomotive maker has produced a self-driving "train" that does not need rails to run.

The tram-bus hybrid runs on roads and uses rubber tires, and is aimed at small cities that cannot afford the civil engineering and catenary infrastructure needed by a conventional light rail network.

Its route can be shown by road markings but these play no part in the guidance system, which relies on the kind of sensors being developed for autonomous vehicles around the world.

Its developer, Hunan-based CRRC Zhuzhou Institute, bills the system as "the first rail-free train", with the official label being the "Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system".

The first line is being prepared in the city of Zhuzhou and is expected to become operational sometime in 2018.

The chain of carriages is some 32m long, has a top speed of 70 km/h and can carry up to 100 passengers in each of its cars. The locomotive, which has a lithium titanate battery, can cover 40km on a single charge, or about 25km on a 10-minute charge.

A conventional steering wheel is available in case a driver needs to take over.

A publicity video of produced by CRRC Zhuzhou can be seen on YouTube here.

The CRRC Zhuzhou Institute was a subsidiary of the state-owned China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corporation before it merged with China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry in 2015.

Image: The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system in action (CRRC Zhuzhou Institute)

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