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SNCF want 'drone trains'

France's railway operator SNCF want to see driverless trains take to the tracks by 2019.

The state-run railway company are working on semi-autonomous high-speed trains, which travel at 200mph, with the hope they can head onto the tracks in 2019 for testing and will only have cargo on board to start with.

However, there is hope that the TGVs would be able to transport passengers four or so years later, with routes between Paris and southeast France.

The trains - which would be operated remotely and would still have conductors onboard if needed in an emergency - will also be fitted with a number of sensors to help it run smoothly. These include sensors to detect any debris on the track, which could cause the train to brake automatically to avoid any harm.

SNCF Deputy Managing Director Matthieu Chabanel insisted the move to "drone trains" wasn't a way of reducing the amount of conductors as they would still be needed to be onboard.

He told FranceInfo: "In aircraft, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system."

It comes after Chinese developers recently unveiled the world's first "railless train".

CRRC Zhuzhou Institute Co Ltd. have been working on the Autonomous Rail Rapid Transport (ART), which is described as a mixture between a train, a tram and a bus.

The train can run at speeds of up to 70km an hour and can hold 500 people. It is powered by electricity and runs on rubber tyres rather than rail tracks.

With each charge, the 30 metre long vehicle can travel 40km and has sensors, which allows it to read specially painted white lines on the road to control its own route.

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