2023年9月16日土曜日

SHINKASEN TRAINS GEARING UP FOR DRIVERLESS OPERATIONS - JAPAN

SHINKASEN TRAINS GEARING UP FOR DRIVERLESS OPERATIONS - JAPAN

@Jackie San


Central Japan Railway Co and East Japan Railway Co have unveiled their respective plans to introduce automated systems on the Tokaido Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen lines.


While Central Japan Railway aims to commercialize driverless technology by 2028, East Japan Railway plans to implement it by the mid-2030s.


As testing progresses, the two railway companies’ differing objectives reflect the unique characteristics of each route and their specific cost-cutting goals.


SUCCESSFUL TEST CONDUCTED ON THE TOKAIDO SHINKASEN LINE 


A significant step was taken on May 11 when a test train equipped with an automatic train operating system (ATO) embarked on a journey from Hamamatsu Station in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The ATO allowed for automatic acceleration, deceleration, and response to sudden instructions, ultimately stopping at Shizuoka Station with minor deviations in position and arrival time. The trial received praise from officials at Central Japan Railway, marking it as a “major success.”


CHALLENGES AND GOALS OF AUTOMATED TRAIN SYSTEMS


Central Japan Railway is focused on meeting the strict departure, transit, and arrival times set at each station, which are standardized in 15-second increments.


Their ATO system aims to enhance passenger comfort and energy efficiency by optimizing the number of acceleration/deceleration cycles and minimizing speed fluctuations.


The company also incorporates a semi-automatic feature that permits higher speeds until the train reaches a designated slowdown section, compensating for potential delays caused by adverse weather conditions or other factors.


DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO AUTOMATION GRADES

 

Central Japan Railway is pursuing Grade 2 automation, as recognized by international organizations, which requires an operator to always be present in the driver’s seat.


The Tokyo Metro subway system and other companies have already implemented Grade 2 automatic train operation.


On the other hand, JR East is aiming for Grade 3 automation on the Joetsu Shinkansen, allowing operation by train attendants who do not need to be qualified as drivers. While both approaches involve some level of automation, they vary in terms of the required crew presence.


CONSIDERATIONS AND PERSPECTIVES ON AUTOMATION 


According to Professor Ryo Takagi from Kogakuin University, Grades 2 and 3 automation do not differ significantly in terms of ATO performance.


However, Central Japan Railway may prioritize maintaining a sufficient number of drivers due to the high passenger volume on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line.


Their presence allows for quick responses in the event of abnormalities or disruptions to the timetable.


The professor also emphasizes the importance of introducing automation technology to reduce work-related stress and enhance employee well-being, rather than utilizing train attendants as a source of inexpensive labor.


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@Jackie San

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