Tokyo, Japan (Urban Transport News): The East Japan Railway (JR East) is all set to introduce largely automated 'driverless' bullet trains in the mid-2030s under plans announced on 9th May 2023, a labor-saving measure that would be a first for the company.
JR East aims to achieve Grade of Automation 3 (GoA3), a level at which the train can drive itself, with a human handling the doors and taking over in emergencies.
According to plan, the driverless bullet trains will first be used on the Joetsu Shinkansen line between Tokyo and the central Japanese city of Niigata. JR East is considering rolling out them out on its Hokuriku line as well.
Before the technology enters commercial use, JR East plans to trial GoA4, or fully unattended, trains on runs without passengers between the Niigata end of the Joetsu line and the nearby rolling stock center.
Back in November 2021, JR East had tested an automatic train operation system on this stretch.
In April 2023, JR East signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on technical cooperation in bullet train automation with West Japan Railway. The both firm will work together to develop the necessary systems and reduce costs.