Urban Transport

"Railless train" debuts in China

"Railless train" debuts in Chi...
The vehicle was unveiled in the city of Zhuzhou on June 2nd
The vehicle was unveiled in the city of Zhuzhou on June 2nd
View 3 Images
The vehicle was unveiled in the city of Zhuzhou on June 2nd
1/3
The vehicle was unveiled in the city of Zhuzhou on June 2nd
2/3
3/3

According to China's CRRC Zhuzhou Institute Co Ltd, most smaller cities can't afford to build light rail systems – even though they would still benefit from having them. That's why the company has built and demonstrated what it's billing as "the world's first railless train." The articulated electric vehicle runs along regular asphalt roads, using rubber tires instead of steel wheels.

The ART (Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit) measures about 9 meters long (30 ft), has a top speed of 70 km/h (43.5 mph), and a range of 40 km (25 miles) per charge of its battery system. It can carry up to 300 passengers in its current three-car configuration – so we're told – although that figure could reportedly be boosted to 500 by adding an extra couple of cars.

While some of the photos make it look like the ART automatically follows lines painted on the road, CRRC simply states that the train is "equipped with sensors that can read the dimensions of roads and plan its own route."

There's no word on things like collision-avoidance systems, plus it does appear to have a seat for a human operator, so it's not clear exactly how autonomous the vehicle actually is.

In any case, plans call for a 6.5-km (4-mile) ART route to be built through downtown Zhuzhou city, which should begin operations next year.

Source: CRRC Zhuzhou via Designboom

20 comments
sk8dad
Assuming these trains have traffic light priority, I see them as making congested streets worse both in terms of increased gridlock potential and reduced merge potential.
toyhouse
One of the primary reasons for rail is efficiency. All those tires underneath do away with that. If the idea is to clear cars off the road, give car-less folks a ride or operate without laying track, there's a thing called a bus. But maybe this could work in certain applications we haven't thought of. We don't know anything about the conditions there.
Imran Sheikh
The good thing about this project is (virtually)Low ground clearance so no biker or pedestrian in gonna get sucked-in in case of sideways collision..
James Brett
So it's a glorified bus?
Deres
The only innovation seems to be the fact that the rear units are sterred in ordre to run in the same track as the front unit. This is not the case with a conventional articulated train. If a line following visual system is used, it is not an innovation. And the previous system were mainly used on buses to have precize stopping at stations. But they were found prone to failure when the marking are degraded or the environemental conditions bad.
JimFox
Interesting starter-for-ten. Wonder what will evolve from this- if anything? FrankHuang- you mean just as light rail does??
Ron Barak
How is that "the world's first railless train" different from the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metronit, which already is operational for several years (besides being electric)?
Nik
This appears to be the same as the ''bendy busses'' as already used in many cities, but with an extra cabin attached. It doesn't state in the article, but I would assume that this would have a dedicated asphalt track, rather than being used on existing roads. Which in turn, poses the question, is laying an asphalt road cheaper than laying tracks with no asphalt? In addition, how would the life of rubber tyres compare to the life of steel wheels? The running costs of tyre replacement could be enormous, given to loads envisaged. It would seem that a couple of London double-decker busses would have a similar capacity, and greater manoeuvrability without all the expense of a dedicated road system, and they could be electric, to reduce pollution within the city. This in turn suggests that an electric trolley-bus system would be as good.
Bruce H. Anderson
By strategically placing sensors into the asphalt it is possible that this system would not require a physical dedicated path. AGV systems using FROG have been around for a while, and this could be similar. The lines in the road are probably more a visual indicator. It does look like a glorified bus, and I would think that shorter vehicles with greater frequency would work better in an urban environment. Not much in the way of range, but perhaps there are charging stations planned along the route.
Alien
Rails are dead - now superfluous. This is the future. It would be better perhaps as separate units (like Metronit) as the vehicle structures would not have to take the strain of 'pulling' additional units behind a tractor unit. Current technology would permit individually powered units which would allow greater flexibility in use. Roadways (i.e.dedicated tracks without rails) are much less expensive to build than railways and unlike railways, can allow 'pull offs' where units can be passed while loading unloading passengers, making for faster journey times.