Saturday, 25 November 2017

How This Driverless(Metro) Train Works (Budapest)

It's very interesting how you feel knowing that you are in a vehicle with over hundred other passengers but then, there is no driver or captain! I personally take the the Metro Line 4 couple of times a week just to have this feeling. Here in Budapest, they call it 'Metro alomas' which means metro train.

Each time I board it, I make sure to stay in the front, the position that actually is supposed to be the seat of the captain in conventional vehicles so I have a clear view of the metro rail track. Besides, I have some kind of satisfaction knowing that what was produced by my field of study (Artificial Intelligence) is working perfectly.

How the Driver-less Metro Train(Metro alomas) Works(Budapest)

There are a few questions we would discuss briefly though.

  1. How Does the Driverless Train Work
  2. What is the Source of Power
  3. Is it Better Than Conventional Trains With a Captain
  4. How can it handle emergency situations
The explanation I would give to these would be very simple, clear and without any technical terms.

 1. How Does the Driverless Metro Train Work
The first point to know is that this train travels in a predefined rail line without any turns or branches. This means that there is no need for a steering wheel. Also, there are predefined stops where it halts for passengers to enter and to alight. The train is programmed to stop at those designated points. In Budapest, these stops are called 'Megallo'.
When it stops, the doors open automatically (doors can be manually opened too by passengers by the press of a button at the door). It remains open for a period of time to allow passengers to go in and come out. It then closes and the train moves on to the next stop.
When it gets to the end of the line, two things could happen:
  • It could then move on opposite direction as both ends of the train are exactly the same (it seems this is not used often)
  • It could do  a round-robin turn and join an opposite track and continue moving in opposite direction but now in a different track
So theoritically, this rail line could continue operating indefinitely provided there is power.

What is the Source of Power
 It does not use fuel neither does it have a fuel tank. It uses electric power connected all along the rail line to the train

How Can It Handle Emergency Situation
The design of the train and the tracks limits the possibility of any serious emergency situation. However, if such happens, there are two features that allows for emergency handling:
i. Engineers are notified automatically and they could actually control the movement from the control room. Like they could reduce the speed, or even stop it completely, open/close the door and issue instructions to passengers. They could also come to the location of the train is minutes or even seconds
ii. Distance between stops are very short. It takes mostly less than a minute or a little more to move from one stop to another

Is It Better Than a Conventional Train With a Captain?
I would say, it depends. For the most part, since the rail track is per-defined and isolated from other roads. This technology could be getting close to the best it could be. So we can say 'yes' in this case. But this may not be the case for all other driver-less rail systems.

Final Notes
Other transport system include the trams(villamos) and the buses(we'll discuss this in a different article)
So any other time you travel to cities having metro trains, try to use the metro. More especially stay in the front such that you can touch the front windshield and have a feels that your life is in the hands of just  a piece of machine! Not so scary though.

I would like to thank you for the time you spend reading this article on Driver-less Metro Trains. If you have any comment or questions, please leave it below this article. You could also reach me for more explanation if you want.