Futuristic metro train manufactured by CRRC does not have a driver's cabin. Photo: Xinhua

Carbon-fiber compartments and Li-Fi technology to transmit data via light are among the major talking points of the futuristic smart train series from the Chinese state-owned rolling-stock manufacturer CRRC Corporation.

A concept model train was unveiled last weekend at a CRRC plant in Changchun, capital of Jilin province in China’s northeast.

Made of carbon-fiber- and quartz-fiber-reinforced plastic, high-strength aluminum and other hybrid fiber metals, the train’s passenger cars are claimed to be 15% lighter than traditional all-steel or aluminum equivalents. The weight savings, along with the use of permanent magnetic traction motors, should reduce a train’s energy consumption by around 15%.

The train is also equipped with a regenerative braking system to convert kinetic energy to charge its lithium-titanate battery packs.

A translucent window touchscreen. Photo: China News Services
A visitor tries out a touchscreen on the front windshield of the train. Photo: Xinhua

Passenger-car windows consist of arrays of 55-inch translucent touchscreens with extra wide viewing angles to display ads and train service updates. The windows can also filter direct sunlight and ultraviolet in summer.

Passenger flow throughout the train can be measured and monitored in real time using ultra-high-definition, 3D twin-lens cameras installed in all train compartments.

Another notable feature is the cutting-edge Li-Fi (light fidelity) network made up of legions of LED (light-emitting diode) lamps inside and outside train cars. Using visible-light communication technology, a Li-Fi network transmits data synchronously and at extremely high speed. For instance, vehicles including trains can communicate with one another via front and back LED lights for extra safety, and according to CRRC, network tracks and tunnels require no extra cables for ethernet or communications, further cutting construction and maintenance costs.

The locomotive and passenger cars are fully controlled by an autopilot system that is capable of adaptive cruise control, emergency stopping and evacuation, changing tracks and entering or leaving its depot without the need for a driver or control center to take over.

The train on display has already attained Grade of Automation-4 certification under the five-tier train-automation hierarchy compiled by the International Association of Public Transport.

GoA-4 refers to unattended train operations where starting and stopping, operation of doors and handling of emergencies are fully automated without any human input.

Trains running on Hong Kong’s South Island Line, manufactured by CRRC’s plant in Changchun, are fully automated. Photo: Handout

All of these capabilities are realized by layers of sensors and radar installed throughout the train as well as odometry algorithm software that can perceive surroundings and detect roadblocks and derailment to improve safety.

CRRC’s Changchun plant was the manufacturer of the rolling stock for the South Island Line of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, inaugurated in 2016 as one of the first GoA-4 metro lines in the Asia-Pacific region. It links the Admiralty area of the city center with the Southern district.

Read more: Driverless bullet trains to serve 2022 Beijing Winter Games

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