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Around the world congested roads are a major problem – and one that is getting worse. Drivers face a commute that’s noisy, polluted and increasingly congested, and are routinely spending more time getting to and from the office. All this takes a toll and adds up over time. In fact, a couple of Swiss economists found that long commutes led people to feel less happy about both their jobs and their lives.

Commuters in Hawaii have first-hand familiarity with congestion. The H-1 freeway from Honolulu airport to downtown is regularly sees some of the worst traffic jams in America.

People now have an alternative thanks to a major mass transit program that’s created the first fully automated elevated rail system in the U.S. When the planned line is operational, passengers will be able to reach their destinations in a fraction of the time it currently takes.

The Skyline – as the new metro line has been named – is the latest example of a new autonomous mass transit system around the world. It embraces automatic train operations (ATO) that are safer, more efficient alternative to manually driven railroads and subways. The deployment of driverless technology means cleaner rail transportation with improved punctuality, reduced energy consumption and enhanced rail safety, notes Domenico Fortinguerra, Project Director, Hitachi Rail Honolulu JV.

"Passengers benefit from a more reliable and comfortable travel experience with optimized train schedules and improved passenger flow"

Hitachi Rail designs, builds and operates autonomous metro systems around the world.  Its Cityringen metro in Copenhagen’s features automated train operations using CBTC (Communication-Based Train Control) technology that has led to more frequent services, improved reliability and shorter waiting times for passengers. Elsewhere, the Milan Metro in Italy has implemented automated train systems on Line 4 and Line 5 while Paris’ Metro transit system has also begun converting to driverless technology.

While automated trains only comprise a relatively small fraction of the world's total transit systems, the percentage is growing as more urban and regional authorities realize the advantages. Driverless trains reduce the chance of human error while improving rail efficiency and safety. Staff savings have been estimated to be up to 70%, with a 30% increase in energy efficiency.

Of course, public perception often lags behind what is technologically possible. It took about half a century before people would ride in elevators without the presence of human operators. That changed following the 1945 strike of New York City’s elevator operators when the elevator industry decided to reinvent itself, ushering in the age of autonomous elevators.

Autonomous train proponents won’t need to wait so long.

The firm collaborates with governments and customers to implement an automated train system projects around the world - the three most important factors being:

Thorough Planning and Feasibility Assessment: A comprehensive evaluation of the project's technical, operational, and financial feasibility to understand the benefits and challenges.

Infrastructure Readiness and Upgrades: Assess the existing railway infrastructure and determine the necessary upgrades to support automated train operations, such as advanced signalling and control systems, communication networks, and safety measures.

Stakeholder Engagement and Communication: Ensure effective communication with employees, passengers and regulatory authorities to address concerns, gain support, and maintain stakeholder engagement throughout the transition process, promoting a smooth and successful implementation.

These steps will ensure a smooth transition, while enhancing overall performance, reliability, and passenger experience in the upgraded railway system. Hitachi can help. From that point, it’s full speed ahead