France’s national railway operator aims to have autonomous high-speed TGV trains running by 2023, according to a report from FranceInfo. The train operator, known by the French acronym SNCF, will begin testing a prototype of its so-called “drone train” in 2019, FranceInfo reports.
The new TGV train would be equipped with sensors that would allow it to detect obstacles and automatically brake, if necessary. The TGV, which reaches speeds of nearly 200mph, could be remotely piloted, though conductors will remain onboard in the short term to handle emergencies or unexpected events. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy tells Le Figaro that if the project is successful, SNCF would be the first operator in the world to run automated high-speed trains.
In an interview with FranceInfo, Matthieu Chabanel, the adjoint director of SNCF, compared the autonomous train to autopilot systems used in commercial flight. “In airplanes, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system," Chabanel said.
The aim, according to the SNCF, is to increase the speed and frequency of TGV journeys, particularly around Paris, where TGV lines intersect with various local and regional rail lines. The operator believes that the automated system would increase the number of trips between Paris and Lyon by 25 percent.
The SNCF recently announced plans to rebrand its iconic TGV line as “inOui,” in a move that drew widespread criticism and mockery online.