What Does It Take To Stop A Londoner Getting To Work?

Snow? Wild animal stampede? Tube strike? 

Not even the latter can stop some of us, even if we need to leave our houses at 9pm the night before to hit the office on time. 

So, should we take a leaf out of Paris’ novella and use driverless trains? Machines don’t normally strike when others are put out of a job so it would ease that problem. 

We’re actually closer to this becoming a thing than people realise. Willard Foxton says there are four kinds of train lines. Those such as the Piccadilly and District run on a class one line, the old school way, guided and controlled by a driver.

The Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines run on a class two system, the trains drive themselves between stations but a driver has control over departures and door activation (I’ve often wondered about the necessity of those open/close buttons). 

The DLR is a class three system where the train pretty much drives itself, with a driver on board for emergencies. 

And class four - No strikes. No Sunday service issues. Full automation. Currently this is only used for things like the trains between terminals at Gatwick and Stansted. However TfL hope to implement this on the (tiny) Waterloo and City line by the next Olympics.

Driverless trains means TfL don’t have to add personnel (and a pay packet) for every service they add, meaning off-peak services can run more frequently. 

The fully automated Paris Metro line 14 works well. All operations are overseen by a human in a control room that tracks all trains and potential hazards and, who, in an emergency can take control of the train by remote. 

Countries such as, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Canada and Dubai have opted for a driverless system for at least some of their transportation needs. 

Obviously there is some peoples natural mistrust of machines to consider, however the reality is machines are actually less likely to make mistakes than humans. 

Naturally there are incidents that have been stopped by the quick thinking of a driver, for example when a young boy slipped off the platform at Finchley Road and was seen by the driver in time to stop the train (while the automatic system gave the all clear to go) and avoid what would have been a devastating outcome. 

In August 2010, a driverless engineer train lost control on the Northern line. The driver of the train in front was instructed to increase his speed and so avoided a collision. 

It does seem that automated trains are the future. But what do you think? Is it too risky to put our lives in the hands of a train driven by a machine (anyone else thinking of I-Robot?) or if the French can do it, surely we can? 

Speaking of robots (machines) we’re hosting a mission to sunny California for 10 of the UK’s most innovative start-ups and SMEs specialising in Robotics and Autonomous Systems who want to lay the groundwork for expanding their business into one of the largest and most dynamic robotics markets in the world.

For full details and to apply, see here

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