Japan is moving closer to having fully automated high-speed trains on its busiest railway line by 2028. Central Japan Railway Co., or JR Tokai, announced that it successfully tested a self-driving Shinkansen train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which connects Tokyo and Osaka.Embed from Getty Images
The test was conducted on May 11, when the driver of the newest N700S Shinkansen train pressed a button at Hamamatsu Station in Shizuoka Prefecture and let the automatic train operation (ATO) system take over. The train reached a speed of 285 kilometers per hour (177 miles per hour) and arrived at Shizuoka Station 26 minutes later, only 2 seconds late and 9 millimeters off the correct position at the platform.Embed from Getty Images
The ATO system can also respond to random tasks given by engineers, such as slowing down at a specific part of the track. The system is designed to improve customer service by allowing the driver to check the platforms and open and close the doors, while the train conductors can spend more time helping passengers and strengthening railway security.
Atsushi Tsujimura, a JR Tokai senior official, said that the ATO system will help cope with the expected labor shortage in the future. “Our train conductors would then be able to spend more time helping customers and strengthen railway security,” he said. “It will help improve our customer service.”
JR Tokai has been testing fully automatic Shinkansen operations since November 2021. The company plans to introduce driverless trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line by 2028, when Japan will host the World Expo in Osaka. Other railway operators, such as East Japan Railway Co., are also developing similar systems for their Shinkansen lines.
Japan’s bullet trains are known for their speed, safety and punctuality. The Tokaido Shinkansen line is the world’s busiest high-speed railway line, carrying more than 400,000 passengers daily. The introduction of self-driving trains is expected to further enhance Japan’s reputation as a leader in railway technology.
- Self-driving test of Shinkansen proves successful for JR Tokai | The Asahi Shimbun: Breaking News, Japan News and Analysis | May 12, 2023
- JR Tokai to test self-driving bullet trains on Tokaido Shinkansen line | The Japan Times | May 10, 2023
- Japan’s first self-driving bullet train test a success | NHK World-Japan | May 11, 2023