New driverless tube trains profiled

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London is set to unveil a new set of driverless vehicles, but they aren’t cars, or trucks or big red buses, but trains. Designed by London Studio, Priestmangoode, the new trains are going to hit London’s Underground system by 2020, working the Picadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo and City Lines.

Designed to look and feel like a wave of the future, the trains are called the “New Tube for London” project and they are vastly different from what you might have seen before. While traditionally underground trains had a locomotive at one end or the other, with carriages in between, the new trains don’t have anything like that at all. Instead, they have one long train section, with no discernible driver pod and no individual carriages.

The trains will however come with a driver when first introduced, however the plan is for them to become fully automated by the mid 2020’s.

“Automation is going to come. This train will allow us to do that,” confirmed London Mayor Boris Johnson at a press briefing this morning.

With no driver cab, the front of the train looks markedly different, with a large door in its centre for emergency exits and bright, white LEDs surrounding them.

The interior layout will be pretty familiar to any regular tube-goers, with seats, poles and grab handles for those standing. However in the summer the entire train will be cooled by air-conditioning, making it much more comfortable, especially during rush hour. Likewise WiFi will be enabled throughout the entire journey, allowing people to browse the internet or contact friends and family while on the move.

Thanks to remote camera feeds of the train, operators will be able to keep an eye on what goes on inside them should any problems occur, as well as diagnosing any potential issues with the train’s important systems. Remote shutdown will be possible, as well as remote control if necessary.

Expect adverts displayed above the tube maps to become digital displays, so there will be constant video and scrolling promotion, which may irritate some, but it’s a logical progression. This would also allow for the dissemination of information in the event of a delay or train stoppage, keeping people updated in real time with what’s going on.

To make the tracks that bit safer too, London will be introducing a clear window system right across the edge of the tracks, meaning it will be impossible to fall (or jump, if we’re honest) on to the tracks at any time. This, combined with changes to the train, will allow for bigger doors to be used, which means getting people on and off the train that bit easier, making the whole system more efficient.

This whole project has been a difficult challenge for Priestmangoode, as London’s underground system is the oldest in the world, with some of the smallest tunnels, so making a train design that will fit and offer improvements was hard. However the £16 billion the project has reportedly been funded with probably greased away a few of those issues.

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.