In brief: In China, testing has gotten underway on a new form of public transport. The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system is broadly similar to a train, but it runs on electricity and doesn't require a track.
China's CRRC Corporation has started testing a new public transport vehicle that blurs the lines between a train and a bus. Dubbed the Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit(ART) system, it can carry up to 300 passengers across three carriages at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour.
ART bears the physical appearance of a train but it doesn't rely on following a track. Instead, it follows a virtual route using an electric powertrain and tires. It's expected to function much like an urban train or a tram, but since there's no investment cost in laying down rails, it should be much cheaper to implement.
This vehicle is also emission free, as it runs on electricity. Currently, its battery packs are only capable of traveling 15 kilometers on a single charge, but they can be fully recharged in just ten minutes using a connection point situated on the top of the carriage.
The concept was first displayed in June 2017, but the system is now being put through its paces on the streets of Zhuzhou in the Hunan Province.
GOING THE DISTANCE
China is pursuing a variety of different avenues in terms of advanced public transport. The country's Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation is reportedly working on a more sophisticated version of the Hyperloop concept, although there's no word on how far into development this initiative is.
One particularly high-profile endeavor was the straddling bus that made headlines in 2016. However, it has since emerged that the project was actually a scam, and its owners were arrested late last year.
Still, the country is very serious about making big changes to the way that residents get around.
Authorities are making a great effort to spur the adoption of electric vehicles, which will be aided by the largest Supercharger station in the world, which Tesla opened in Shanghai earlier this month.
It's no secret that pollution is a huge problem in China, with smog proving to have particularly deadly consequences for people living in the region. However, in recent years the government has committed to making big changes in order to improve the situation.
40 percent of China's factories have been shut down, and authorities are reportedly working on a timetable to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars. Alongside the prospect of the ART system being brought to fruition, there are hopes that air quality might continue to be improved in the years to come.