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Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Are Going to Beat Up on Trains, Too

Got a gig in the global passenger rail industry? Prepare for an “enormous shakeout.”
A London commuter awaits her train.
A London commuter awaits her train. Neil Hall/Reuters

One reason it’s so irresistible to speculate about what self-driving cars will do to our lives is that there aren’t any around yet to show us how wrong we are: The prototypes from Google, Uber, and others are tantalizingly functional (and the feds have officially cleared a lane ahead for them, regulation-wise), but real-deal full autonomy remains safely tucked in the future.

Much of the speculation has revolved around how autonomous vehicles (or AVs) will disrupt the car industry, and the world that industry created—that is, the auto-centric neighborhoods, shopping districts, and business centers of the U.S. But a new report released Monday from the Boston Consulting Group concentrates on the potential impact AVs will have on an older, globally popular form of transportation: passenger rail. “Will Autonomous Vehicles Derail Trains? the report asks. Short answer: Oh yes.