From the rolling-stock point of view, additional redundancy levels should be added to the existing ones in order to boost its reliability. The train architecture should be modified to avoid any “no-go” condition, for both power and control-command systems. Monitoring should be increased to have complete information in a “control center” about the working state of the train. Additionally, the required means to provide remote technical assistance should be provided.
Concerning the infrastructure, similar measures should be taken accordingly to avoid failures and problems.
However, even after taking these measures, there is still a possibility of a train getting stranded because of external causes (e.g. overhead power supply failure, bad weather conditions, obstacles on track, etc.). Additional measures should be provided for early detection and remedy of these events.
Powerful communication capabilities would also be required to keep the passengers continuously and suitably informed – though information displays, intercom systems, CCTV systems, passenger alarms, etc.
The psychological factor on these environments is of paramount importance. Passengers must perceive, through several channels, that the term “unattended” does not apply to them at any rate; on the contrary, they should be clearly informed about what are, for them, the benefits of driverless operation: higher capacity, efficiency and comfortable rides free of human errors.
The Spanish high speed trains feature the highest technology. The automatic train operation (ATO) implemented onboard AVE trains is very close to driverless operation.
From the technology point of view, unattended train operation in high speed environments could be possible in the near future, provided that the required changes are adopted, as pointed out in this article.
However, for the time being, this operation model is not the most ideally suited for typical high-speed environments due to the large number of different scenarios that could arise and their particular nature.
Finally, the possibility of implanting driverless operation should be carefully studied, planned and designed for each specific case, taking into account the hazard log of the whole high-speed system, in order to prevent and avoid risks for passengers.