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High-Tech Transport Is Already Here, and It’s Called Rail

Tesla and Waymo may be plotting the future of cars, but innovation in the rail industry is years ahead


Photographer: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images


The airline and automotive industries are abuzz with talk of driver-less travel and electric propulsion, so much so that they might seem to be the pacesetters in transport technology. Yet train manufacturers around the world are introducing innovations that may be years away for cars and planes. Rail chiefs met recently at the biennial Innotrans trade fair in Berlin to showcase a future that’s already happening. Here are some of the highlights:

Google’s Waymo self-driving-car technology won’t hit the highway until next year, and pilot-less passenger jets are still years away. Yet autonomous trains have already been introduced across dozens of subway and tram systems where there’s no risk of a clash with other services, among them London’s Docklands Light Railway, the Paris Metro and the SkyTrain and Plane Train people movers at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport.