By Susan J. Campbell
As technology consumers, we have become accustomed to the automation of certain capabilities. Self-service channels, for instance, allow us to handle many of the processes we want to complete without interacting with another human being. We rely on automation to streamline our work processes or make consumables more available. What if this automation were instead in the driver’s seat – literally?
This was the focus of a recent Alcatel-Lucent TrackTalk article, Looking Forward with Driverless Operation. The driverless metro allows the passenger a full panoramic view that was once only reserved for the driver. And, while the driverless metro is nothing new, many passengers still remain in awe – and sometimes in fear – of the automation that is put in place to get them from point A to point B.
According to Jarrett Walker, Principal Consultant with Australian transport consultancy McCormick Rankin Cagney and editor of the Human Transit blog, the 20th century transit rider can easily have a fear of automation and the desire to know that a visible human being is in charge. When on a bus, the driver is the clear authority figure and riders rely on that person.
The BART system in San Francisco is one example of how passengers can start to embrace automation. When a BART train stops at the station, the driver will lean out of the cab and face backwards along the train. He is checking that the doors are closed, but he also remains in that position as the train starts to move forward again. The purpose is to communicate to riders that he really isn’t driving and that their movement relies on automation.
Walker stresses that the only way to overcome any generalized anxiety surrounding the driverless metro is through a combination of information and patience. Fortunately, there are enough rail operations already relying on driverless automation, and that data can be used to support its value. In Vancouver, for instance, driverless technology and automation has been in place for 25 years without compromising security or safety.
The key to tackling anxiety for riders on the driverless metro has been the practice of reminding passengers that a human presence remains. The SkyTrain in Vancouver allows passengers to contact staff at any time through intercoms that connect directly to the operations center.
Safety and security are also critical issues for passengers. Automation and driverless metro approaches have proven to reduce incidents and heighten the overall safety of the platform. For instance, most automated metro lines are equipped with platform screen doors. This helps to significantly reduce the number of incidents caused by passengers as the process is completely automated, forcing passengers to follow a standard approach to entrance and exit.
Automation on the driverless metro allows for increased services at minimal additional cost. This frequency really is freedom and visibly present staff at critical locations can easily coordinate any emergency response, if needed. With the reduced incidents and the secure and safe approach to transportation offered through automation, the driverless metro actually offers a fast, efficient and safe ride.
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