East Japan Railway (JR East) has carried out a trial run of its E-7 series Shinkansen bullet train in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture.
The test run, which was announced a year ago, seeks to automate high-speed rail operations due to labour shortages.
The trial saw the 12-car E7-series bullet train, which was remotely piloted from a control centre, operated in automatic mode without any physical intervention.
This is said to be the first automatic trial of a bullet train that is already in commercial service in Japan.
During the test run, drivers and other staff members were present on the train in case of any emergency.
The train travelled for nearly 5km from Niigata Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen line, nearing the expected top speed of 110km/h.
While stopping at the Niigata shinkansen train depot, the train missed its planned stopping point by 8cm, which was still within the allowable margin of 50cm.
JR East has been carrying out autonomous shinkansen test rides for technical evaluations since 29 October.
In addition, the company has been conducting trials to bring the trains to an emergency stop.
For driverless operations, JR East is also testing the deployment of local 5G high-speed communication services.
This will enable the transmission of high-quality video footage from trains to the control facility in real-time.
The company has performed similar autonomous driving tests on the ‘Alfa-X’ prototype new shinkansen train and Tokyo’s busy Yamanote loop line.
West Japan Railway and Kyushu Railway are also carrying out trials to promote autonomous driving.
These companies have conducted tests on the Osaka Loop Line and Kashii Line local services, respectively.