France believes it can transport people on driverless trains by 2023

Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV), France
Who says cars are the only form of transportation that could benefit from being driverless?

Certainly not engineers in France, who have high hopes for the future of their trains. According to a new report from FranceInfo, SCNF, the French government-owned railway company responsible for managing the country’s rail services, has its sights set on what it calls​ a “train drone” project. The goal is for a prototype of this technology to be on the tracks by 2019 (though it’ll transport goods, not humans, at first).

You won’t necessarily be able to tell that this train doesn’t have a conductor — at least, not from afar. Rather, the French publication notes, it’ll simply be outfitted with external sensors meant to keep tabs on obstacles in its way. Should the sensors detect potential danger in its way, it’ll trigger automatic braking. Ultimately, the company hopes this driverless train could make for more efficient journeys by eliminating the “tedious maneuvers of setting up in stations before departure” — although it likely won’t make the list of the world’s fastest trains.

The first humans should be able to ride this drone train by 2023, making their way between Paris and the southeast of France. But don’t worry — there will be humans onboard who aren’t passengers. A driver will still be on hand, though his or her role will largely be relegated to closing doors and intervening should an emergency arise.

While the idea of automated mass transportation may seem a bit daunting to some, Matthieu Chabanel, the adjoint director of SNCF, pointed out that a driverless train wouldn’t be very different from the autopilot feature on airplanes. “In aircraft, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system,” he noted. The same would apply to French trains. Similar efforts are under way to create self-driving trucks as well.

If all goes well, SCNF believes that it could level up both the regularity and speed of trains, especially in Paris, the hub of French transportation. So look out, world. France is setting the bar high when it comes to autonomous technology.

Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Cars

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.
Cars

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.
Cars

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.
Cars

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?
Cars

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.
Cars

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.
Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.