There’s been a lot of news surrounding the development of autonomous cars, which will eventually be able to drive around passengers without need of a human driver. There’s also been a lot of press attention devoted to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. But there hasn’t been much said about automated rail systems – probably because there aren’t many in existence – yet.
That might soon be changing. Planned to launch near Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, the rail project would make the school more easily accessible. Called SkyWay, it would involve an elevated, driverless train that would be run on a rechargeable battery. It is expected to transport around one million passengers per year, and could serve as an add-on to another new rail-line already in the works.
The fact that nothing quite like it exists is both a benefit and a drawback. Getting approvals and investment could be a challenge since there’s not much to compare it to. However, if it is successful this could be a tourist attraction in addition to providing added convenience for residents.
Currently, the only similar trains in existence draw their power from a third rail, much like a traditional train. There are automated systems in New York City that serve as airport transportation, and there’s a SkyTrain system in a handful of locations around the world. These systems have largely been a success, and are popular modes of transport in the areas they serve. So, one can hope that the SkyWay project will see the same success if it gets approved in Australia. And if the battery-powered train concept catches on, maybe we’ll see further development elsewhere in the future.