Automatic Train Operation (ATO) – assistance systems reduced to the maximum.
ATO is an important part of smartrail 4.0 and is helping to achieve the goals of “security” and “increased capacity”. Good to know: ATO is not about remote-controlled self-driving or unmanned trains. Unmanned trains will be extremely rare in normal rail operations for the foreseeable future.
Unmanned trains would have to be in line with Level GoA4 (Grade of Automation Level 4) – the highest possible level of automation. The current ATO is still a long way off from this. Initial tests concerned an assistance system for train drivers that is comparable to cruise control in a car: the train driver sits in the driver's cab monitoring the systems and intervening if necessary. ATO dispenses with manual acceleration and braking. The link to adaptive control allows an energy-optimised driving profile to be realised automatically, as well as a smoother driving style that passengers will appreciate. This corresponds with the second automation level GoA2. By way of comparison: At level GoA3 there is still a staff member on board. Only at GoA4 would the train be unmanned. In the medium term in the Swiss railway system, based upon the current level of technology, unmanned trains will at best be economically viable for shunting or train stabling, and rarely in normal railway operations.