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2019 - November - Burton - Should We Forget the Dri 2019 - November - Burton - Should We Forget the Driver? featured_orange_star

One of the key advantages that rail transportation has over its road-based competitors is that of driver efficiency.  Typically a train will need less drivers to get from A to B for a given load (be it humans or freight) compared to the number of road vehicles required to transport the same load. However, there is an emerging risk that this significant railvs- road advantage is about to be eroded. Huge amounts of R&D spending has been invested globally over the last 5-10 years in the pursuit of self-driving cars and trucks. Will this become a serious threat to rail’s competitiveness?

Currently nobody has yet cracked the full self-driving problem for road vehicles but given the number of companies who have bet vast sums of their money that it is possible, it would be arguably unwise to assume their goal will not be reached in at least the medium term. This paper looks at some of the problems still facing our tarmac-based competition and whether these same issues also apply to rail if we (the rail industry) were to try and proceed to driverless trains
across most rail operations in a similar timeframe.

Ultimately this paper asks the question: are we proceeding fast enough to a future where most trains can be operated without a driver?.


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AuthorNoel Burton
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Changed byNick Hughes

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