Is This a "Trackless Train" or a Bendy Bus?

via. inews

The Daily Mail title: Is this the future of urban transport? China unveils track-less train that runs on virtual railways. According to the People's Daily, it's called ART, short for Autonomous Rail Transit, and was just unveiled by the Chinese Rail Corp. in Hunan Province.

ART uses rubber wheels on a plastic core instead of steel wheels. It’s also equipped with the company’s copyrighted technology to automatically guide the vehicles. It carries the advantages of both rail and bus transit systems and is agile and non-polluting... The first ART car is 31 meters (~100') in length, with a maximum passenger load of 307 people or 48 tons. Its top speed is 70 kilometers per hour (43MPH), and it can travel 25 kilometers in distance (15 mi.) after 10 minutes of charging.

inews/via25km is not really very far, but the recharging is fast. It also follows "virtual rails" and "intelligent tracking. Here is a poor translation of a Chinese site:

The wisdom of the train seems to be trackless, but in reality there are "track", but using the train Zhuzhou innovation team independent research and development of the "virtual track to follow control" technology. In simple terms, it identifies the pavement virtual track line through the various sensors of the vehicle, and transmits the running information to the train "brain" (central control unit). According to the instructions of the "brain", it ensures that the trains, Action at the same time, can accurately control the train running in the established "virtual track", to achieve intelligent operation.

ART driver

inews/Screen capture

It isn't totally virtual and self-driving, and has a cab for a driver. In fact, it has two, one at each end, so like a ferry boat, the driver moves to the other end and doesn't have to turn the bus around, which might be a challenge in a hundred foot long vehicle.

ART interior


They claim that it will cost a fifth as much as a regular train, which makes some sense given that the rails are virtual. But really, it is just a very big bus. BRT, or bus rapid transit, has been proven to work in many places, particularly if it has fully dedicated rights of way. Jarrett Walker of Human Transit wrote a few years ago:

Fast-developing middle-wealth countries like China, India, Mexico, and Brazil are the sweet spot for BRT because (a) car ownership is still moderate, (b) government power tends to be consolidated enough that decision making is easy, (c) there is simply not enough money to build massive rail transit systems, at least not quickly and at the necessary scale.

And really, that is apparently what this is, a big articulated electric bus. It's a real stretch to call it a trackless-train on virtual rails but hey, they're only Hunan.