We are the first self driving trains, Elon Musk says, and the next step is self-disposition.
The Tesla CEO’s vision for autonomous transport has the potential to be a major boon to mankind, he said at the inaugural “Train & Bus Week” conference in New York.
Musk’s vision is a vision of trains that are controlled by the driver and driven autonomously in real time.
In the event of an accident, the trains would be self-driven.
The trains would not require any human supervision, the Tesla CEO said.
The concept of self-sustaining trains was first articulated in the movie The Passenger, in which a character, Mr Robot, talks about trains that can self-drive in the event that a passenger is injured or incapacitated.
“The passenger is a robot and we’re the robot,” he said.
“The problem is, what if I get hit by a train?”
Mr Robot is a fictionalised version of Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla.
Musks self-driver trains would resemble the fictional trains in The Passenger and other film and television series.
The cars, which are designed to travel between stations on a route that would be in the interest of the passengers, would have their own computer-controlled driver and be capable of taking off or landing on any platform.
The trains would have a self-contained battery pack that could last for three years.
“The trains will never need to recharge,” Musk said.
“The batteries will last for 50,000 miles.”
The train would then go back to its home station to recharge.
Mr Robot and other films such as The Hunger Games have used self-loading trains, in a way similar to how Amazon is using its drones for delivery.
Self-loading is the process of loading and unloading the train at the station where the passengers are located, rather than having the train pull up to the station in a queue.
“If you’re at the front of the queue and you have no idea where the train is going to go, you’re going to take the wrong train,” Musk explained.
“And that train is self fuelling, it’s not self-stowing.
Tesla and Uber, the car service that Musk founded in 2011, have also experimented with self-loader trains, and have recently developed the self-seating pods that they use for deliveries.
However, Musk’s self driving train is the first to use a fully automated system, and he said that he has no doubt that it will be successful in the long run.
“I can’t tell you how many people have been on self-drives that have done a great job,” he added.
“They’ve been a disaster.
I can tell you that they’re very difficult to ride.””
I don’t think anyone would be upset if we self-drivers drove all our trains.
It’d be great.”
The event was hosted by the US Department of Transportation (DOT), with support from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the US Transportation Research Board (USTRB) and the Transportation Research Institute (TRI).
The Tesla founder is currently building a fleet of self driving cars at his company’s factory in Fremont, California.
The event also saw the launch of a “TruCars” autonomous vehicle, which will be operated by a team of engineers who are trained in self-deploying vehicles.
The first commercial driverless vehicle to be tested on the road is an UberX ride-sharing service in the US.
In the event, Mr Musk said that it was important to ensure that the vehicles that will be tested are capable of performing their tasks safely.
“In the long term, the most important thing is to make sure that we’re driving them safely,” he told the conference.
“We’re not going to have autonomous cars on the roads, but they’re going into the future.
The thing that I want to avoid is going from the point of no return to the point where we’re going, ‘Oh well, I can’t afford this.'””
That’s the first thing we’re doing.”