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Driverless train test on busy Tokyo line conducted for 1st time during daytime

TOKYO -- East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) began an automated train test run on a busy Tokyo line for the first time in daylight hours on the morning of Feb. 25 as it seeks a driverless future.

    The driver's cabin is seen on the automated train during a test run on the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo on Feb. 25, 2022. The driver's hands are off the train's controls. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

    During the test, the train with reporters on board circled the JR Yamanote loop line around central Tokyo twice. JR East intends to improve the Automatic Train Operation (ATO) system based on the test results.

    The test run plan called for the E235 series train -- the newest on the Yamanote Line -- equipped with the experimental ATO system to depart Osaki Station in Shinagawa Ward and run clockwise on the 34.5-kilometer loop line. A train driver was in the cabin in case of unforeseen circumstances, and to make sure the train ran properly, such as acceleration, deceleration and stopping at each station between other trains in service. The train did not carry regular passengers.

    JR East is aiming to implement driverless trains as a hedge against a predicted driver shortage due to Japan's decreasing population. This is the fourth test on the Yamanote Line. The first three tests were conducted only at night between the last train of the day and the first train of the next. A test in January 2019 was revealed to the media.

    (Japanese original by Shotaro Kinoshita, Tokyo City News Department)

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