China Tests 350kmph Self-Driving Trains as MAD Take-Out Robots Roam the Streets

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5:57 PM HKT, Fri July 27, 2018 1 mins read

This week in China automating everything news: driverless high-speed trains! Yes, not content with announcing a deal to bring potentially 1,000kmph Hyperloop trains to the country last week, Chinese authorities recently revealed that they’re also testing what 350kmph high-speed gaotie trains would be like without human drivers (link in Chinese).

Great — what could possibly go wrong there?

A BBC report on the 2011 Wenzhou train crash


To be fair, China’s high-speed train network is pretty incredible, carrying large numbers of people (safely) across vast distances with impressive efficiency. The system seems to operate precisely to the timetable too, unless there’s a typhoon or something (which is understandable given the trains are rattling along on raised tracks — gao meaning high and tie meaning rail). Plus the new Fuxing Hao trains (pictured up top) have free wifi on board and, if you so wish, you can get KFC delivered to your seat.

These latest moves are just trials of course, but Shanghai has had a (admittedly much slower) driverless metro line in operation since the spring. Meanwhile Baidu continues to make a lot of fuss over it’s kind of funny-looking driverless buses:

Also this week, as if delivering food by drone and JD delivering products by robot wasn’t enough, take-out food giant Meituan have announced that they’re getting into the autonomous vehicle game for its deliveries too.

The Meituan Autonomous Delivery (MAD) system has been officially rolled out in Joy City shopping mall in Beijing, Lenovo’s Shenzhen offices, and Shanghai’s Songjiang University district after successful trials which began in March. They’re sticking to such confined locations to begin with because of the slow speeds involved, but TechNode reports that in Songjiang alone MAD is responsible for 1,000 deliveries a day.

The autonomous vehicles look a lot like JD’s delivery bots and, just as with’s drones, still rely on human delivery people to undertake some of the work, with drivers preferred for longer distance deliveries.

Interesting times for self-driving technology. Potentially tough times down the road/track for public transport and courier drivers.


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