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Self-driving train tested on Tokyo line

A self-driving train on the Yamanote Line runs through Tokyo during a test run on early Monday. (Japan News-Yomiuri / Japan News-Yomiuri)
A self-driving train on the Yamanote Line runs through Tokyo during a test run on early Monday. (Japan News-Yomiuri / Japan News-Yomiuri)
Japan News Yomiuri

TOKYO – A self-driving Yamanote Line train went for a test run in Tokyo on Monday morning, as East Japan Railway Co. unveiled its latest technology to the press.

The company, known as JR East, is accelerating the development of self-driving technologies, aiming to manage an expected future driver shortage due to the declining population.

Starting late last month, JR East collected data by testing an E235-series train equipped with the automatic train operation (ATO) system on the 34.5-kilometer circular Yamanote Line in central Tokyo after the last scheduled train.

On Monday, the train departed Osaki Station and made two complete circuits.

Although a driver was onboard in case of emergency, the driver did not touch the handle used to accelerate and decelerate the train. What the driver did was simply press a button when departing each station.

The train stopped by itself or sped up automatically when it deemed it was arriving later than scheduled.

Although at some stations the train stopped at slightly different positions from the correct ones, the train was able to run almost on schedule.

It has yet to be decided when the technology will be introduced and to which lines, but a JR East official said, “We hope the technology will be put into practical use as soon as possible.”

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