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Driverless Metros



Numerous subway systems have automated trains

Driverless metro lines are currently operational in the following cities. People movers and monorails are listed only if part of the urban transport.
  1. Ankara (1997, metro line)
  2. Bangkok (1999, Green line)
  3. Barcelona (2009, lines L9, L10, L11)
  4. Brescia (2012, metro)
  5. Busan (2011, Line 4)
  6. Copenhagen (2002, all metro lines)
  7. Detroit (1987, downtown people mover, LIM technology)
  8. Dortmund (1984, H-Bahn)
  9. Dubai (2009, metro)
  10. Guangzhou (2010, APM line (underground people mover))
  11. Hong Kong (2005, Disneyland Resort Line)
  12. Jacksonville (1989, downtown monorail people mover)
  13. Kobe (1981, Port Liner and Rokko Liner, rubber-tyred)
  14. Kuala Lumpur (1996, LRT)
  15. Las Vegas (2004, monorail)
  16. Lausanne (2008, line m2)
  17. Lille (1983, VAL)
  18. London (1987, Docklands Light Rail)
  19. Lyon (1991, line D/Maggaly, rubber-tyred, no PSDs)
  20. Miami (1986, downtown people mover, rubber-tyred)
  21. Milan (2013, line M5)
  22. Nagoya (2005, Tobu Kyuryo maglev line)
  23. Nuremberg (2008, lines U2, U3, no PSDs, sharing tracks with driver-operated trains)
  24. Oeiras (2004, Minimetro)
  25. Osaka (1981, Nanko Port Town Line, rubber-tyred)
  26. Paris (1998, lines 1, 14, rubber-tyred)
  27. Perugia (2008, Minimetro)
  28. Rennes (2002, VAL)
  29. Sao Paulo (2010, line 4)
  30. Singapore (2003, North-East Line, Circle Line, Downtown Line, and the 3 rubber-tyred LRT lines)
  31. Taipei (1996, Wenshan (Muzha) VAL line)
  32. Tokyo (1995, Yurikamome Waterfront line, rubber-tyred)
  33. Toulouse (1993, VAL)
  34. Turin (2006, VAL)
  35. Uijeongbu (2012, LRT with VAL technology)
  36. Vancouver (1986, Skytrain, LIM technology, currently the world's longest automated system)
  37. Yokohama (1989, Kanazawa Seaside line, LRT, rubber-tyred)
  38. Yongin (2013, EverLine)
Additional driverless lines currently under construction: London (Jubilee line), Honolulu LRT (new system, 2017).

Some automated metro trains have drivers sitting in the front cabins for safety reasons or to address public concerns. The systems are: Barcelona (Line 2), London (Victoria line), New York (Line L/Canarsie), San Francisco (BART since its start in 1972), Toronto (Scarborough RT), Washington DC.

Under certain weather conditions, wheel slip can be a problem in systems with traditional steel wheels, which is why they still need staff assistance. Staff on board can also check tickets, offer travel advice for passengers or initiate door closure (like at London DLR). Systems with linear induction motors (LIM) or rubber tyres (such as VAL) don't have problems with wheel slip and can be operated completely without staff.

Advantages of driverless metros:
  • Lower expenditure for staff (staff swallows a significant part of the costs of running a transport system). However, service and security personnel is common in automated systems.
  • Trains can be shorter and instead run more frequently without increasing expenditure for staff.
  • Service frequency can easily be adjusted to meet sudden unexpected demands.
  • Despite common psychological concerns, driverless metros are safer than traditional ones. None of them ever had a serious accident.
  • Intruder detection systems can be more effective than humans in stopping trains if someone is on the tracks.
  • Financial savings in both energy and wear-and-tear costs because trains are driven to an optimum specification.
  • Train turnover time at terminals can be extremely short (train goes into the holding track and returns immediately), reducing the number of train sets needed for operation.

Criticism:
  • Despite proven safeness of automated systems, some passengers might still have safety concerns or be afraid of trains that seem to run by themselves (despite the fact that elevators are driverless for decades).
  • Conversion of traditional metros into driverless ones puts train drivers out of work, if they cannot be retrained to work as service or security personnel.




Train Turnover

Reversing time of automated trains can be as short as a few seconds. Photo: Lille's VAL.

Platform Screen Doors

Driverless lines are often equipped with platform screen doors. Photo: Paris's line 14.

More on platform screen doors...

Elevated Sections

Many driverless metros have underground sections as well as sections above surface. Photo: London's Docklands Light Rail near Limehouse station.

Front View

In trains without drivers' cabs, passengers can enjoy a spectacular view, even in tunnels, from the first row of seats. Photo: Copenhagen.

Driver on Board

Many automated systems look like traditional ones because they still have drivers in the cabs, like San Francisco's BART.




Photos by M. Rohde. Page updated 25 Nov 2013 (database entries may be more recent).


Reference

Bardsley, Daniel: Why Trains Run Better Without Any Drivers. 2009 (about Dubai's metro).
Lindsey, Hal; Little, David: Driverless Rapid Transit Systems Take Hold (PDF). 2001.
Smiler, Simon P.: citytransport.info.
UITP: Automated Metros in the World.
UITP: Singapore’s Driverless Metros. 2003 (with a list of driverless systems).






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