Photos: World's First Trackless 'Smart Train' Launched In China
China has launched its first futuristic 'smart train' that uses virtual track lines and can carry as many as 300 passengers.
The trackless train uses virtual railway lines
A city in China has launched a futuristic, trackless train, which uses virtual railway lines to take it from place to place.
The train, which can travel as quickly as 43 mph (70kmh), and carry as many as 300 passengers, is being hailed as the world's first 'smart train'.
The rail system, called ART or Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit, runs on virtual rail lines through the busy streets of Zhuzhou in China's Hunan province and was created by China's CRRC Corporation Limited, one of the world's largest train manufacturers.
The ART is almost a hybrid of a bus and a tram and it will be used to shuttle Zhuzhou's four million residents about the city, before being rolled out across the rest of China.
Instead of using tracks, like a traditional tram, the ART follows white markings, painted onto the road and measuring 3.75 metres (12.3 feet) across.
Feng Jianghua, chief engineer of the train, has said the virtual railway system is much cheaper to build compared to a conventional tram or subway system.
He said it would cost 150 to 200 million yuan (£17 to 23 million) to build one kilometre (0.6 miles) of traditional tramway in China, but with the high-tech virtual line used by the ART, the cost would be reduced to 50 to 100 million yuan (£5.7 to 11.4 million) for the same distance.
Mr Feng also addressed safety concerns, saying the train identifies the pavement and has various sensors to collect other important travel information.
The service is set to open officially next spring and the hope is to make the trains fully autonomous in the near future.
In the US, Elon Musk is developing a system called Hyperloop, which is proposed to run at a top speed of 760mph using pod-like vehicles in a tube with reduced pressure.
"I know there are various companies that are trying to create the Hyperloop, and honestly I think it is a lot easier than people think. Blueprints are always kind of complicated, and, yes, there is math, but it's really not that hard," Musk said in a CNN Money interview.
"It's like a tube with an air-hockey table. It's just a low-pressure tube, with a pod in it that runs on air bearings, on air skis. With an air compressor on the front that is taking the high-pressure air built on the nose and pumping it through the air skis. It's really - I swear it's not that hard."