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This article was published on May 20, 2021


Is China’s autonomous trackless train just a glorified bus? Yeah, pretty much

Only this Erik dude is excited about it

Is China’s autonomous trackless train just a glorified bus? Yeah, pretty much
Ioanna Lykiardopoulou
Story by

Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives. Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives.

Twitter is bursting over this “new autonomous electric train that does not need traditional tracks.”

To begin with, it’s not that new. The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) guided articulated vehicle was developed back in 2013 by Chinese rail maker CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co., Ltd. It was first launched in Zhuzhou in 2017, and since then it has undergone several trials and experimental operations.

The biggest issue with the ART vehicle is that we can’t really point out what it is: a train, a tram, or a bus?

As per CRRC Zhuzhou, the electric vehicle is labeled as a “smart bus“, designed to alleviate the Chinese urban transport system, Xinhuanet reported in 2017. 

Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0

A standard bus is about 30 meters long and features three carriages with a capacity of 300 people, while a five-carriage bus can carry up to 500 passengers.  

Credit: CRRC Zhuzhou

The ART bus runs on virtual tracks, meaning that it uses sensors and cameras that enable it to mark the road dimensions and map its route. This is also facilitated by dotted lines painted on the road.

So, if we do the math, it’s essentially a glorified bus that runs on lanes, even if it looks like a train or a tram.

On the bright side, yes, it’s electric and features automated tech that assists the driver. But to be honest, there aren’t too many novel things about it.


Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

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