JR East to Test Autonomous Shinkansen Operations

Economy Science Technology

Tokyo, Nov. 10 (Jiji Press)--East Japan Railway Co. <9020>, or JR East, said Tuesday that it will conduct autonomous test runs of its E7 series Shinkansen bullet trains in Niigata Prefecture, central Japan, around October to November next year.

This will be the first autonomous test run of a Shinkansen train in Japan, according to the railway operator. It will seek to identify issues and gather expertise so that it can introduce autonomous Shinkansen into service in the future.

The test without passengers will take place on the roughly 5-kilometer section linking Niigata Station, a terminal of the Joetsu Shinkansen Line, and the Niigata Shinkansen rail yard. JR East will test remote-controlled departures, automatic acceleration and deceleration, as well as automatic stops at designated points, using an autonomous train control system currently under development. Shinkansen drivers will be on board the E7 trains during the test in case of an emergency.

“We want to push down costs (of Shinkansen operations) while raising stability (in operations),” JR East President Yuji Fukasawa said at a press conference on Tuesday. The company has so far conducted autonomous test runs of trains on its Yamanote Line, a busy loop line in Tokyo, late at night after the end of daily services.

JR East also said that it will test “local 5G” technology, in which the fifth-generation ultrahigh-speed wireless communications network is used in a limited area. The company hopes to use the technology to send real-time high-resolution images of inside and around autonomously operated trains to control rooms in the future.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press