Video: London’s futuristic new driverless underground trains

London’s public transport, while extensive, isn’t exactly renowned for its futuristic features or design, particularly given parts of it are 150 years old.

However, that is set to change with the development of a new underground train design, dubbed the New Tube.

Among the new features are a row of digital screens in every carriage, which fill the space occupied by printed adverts in current underground trains. These should prove invaluable to commuters and tourists alike, providing live updates on travel in the city, information about upcoming stations and other valuable data, alongside adverts.

Designed for the cities deepest underground lines, the trains can be operated entirely without a driver.  However Transport for London says that an operator who can move between the carriages will work on the trains, at least when they are first introduced in around a decade.

This is probably an attempt to placate the city’s increasingly concerned transport workforce. London has been slowly automating many of the jobs involved in the London Underground, prompting day-long strikes that have in the past left some commuters with no way of getting to work.

The new trains are designed by world-renowned design firm PriestmanGoode, which is known for its work on the World View space balloon.

“TfL wanted the New Tube for London to celebrate the great history of transport design in London, whilst acting as a beacon of innovative 21st century public transport,” explained company director Paul Priestman.

“We took inspiration from iconic London landmarks and key attributes of British design to create a tube that is beautiful, simple, functional and maintainable.”

Among the other features of the new trains are a complete walkthrough design – many of London’s existing underground trains confine passengers to specific carriages – and a responsive air conditioning system.

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More significant, however, is the paired doors which will be located on stations. By creating a glass wall between the platform and track, stations will become far safer, preventing accidental falls in front of trains as well as suicide attempts.

One line in London currently has such doors, but in other areas of the city standing on the edge of the platform at rush hour and feel fairly perilous.

It is also a cause of delays, with trains unable to leave the station if people are standing too close to the edge on the platform.

“The New Tube for London will change the face of travel on the Underground,” said London Underground managing director Mike Brown.

“The faster, more frequent and more reliable services it will enable will help us keep pace with London’s growing population.

“The design respects the past but also looks to the future and with the very latest technology; including walk-through carriages and wider doors to enable people to get on and off quickly as well as providing air-cooling for the first time on the deep level lines.”


Image and video courtesy of Transport for London / PriestmanGoode.


The wearable HUD: Augmented reality goggles to become standard for pilots

Wearable head up display (HUD) technology is predicted to become the standard for helicopter and commercial aviation pilots, according to business growth consultants Frost & Sullivan.

Traditional HUD technology – which overlays information on a transparent screen over the cockpit window to aid flight – has become increasingly common, but converting the technology into a wearable device will improve its ability to aid pilots.

This means that future pilots met with harsh weather conditions will be able to land their planes safely with the aid of augmented reality – reducing weather-related delays.

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The predicted leader in the field is Skylens by Elbit Systems, which is designed to resemble ski goggles and can be worn over regular glasses. Today the technology was given the 2014 Global Frost & Sullivan Award for New Product Innovation Leadership in recognition of this.

“Elbit’s Skylens HUD is affordable as it can be easily installed in any airplane or helicopter, providing all the benefits of HUD, such as reducing dependency on airport equipment, day and night operation in all weather conditions and exceptional situational awareness,” said Frost & Sullivan consultant Thomas Saquer.

“It is the ideal device to support the pilot during take-off and approach flight phases, while improving the airline’s operations as it allows the aircraft to land in difficult conditions at many airports.”

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Although these devices have not yet received certification – Skylens is expected to be approved for flight use in 2016 – interest in the technology is palpable.

Frost & Sullivan believes that companies looking to retrofit their older planes with HUDs are likely to pass over the fixed versions and go straight to the wearable.

The company even believes that if the price is right the goggles will render fixed HUDs completely obsolete, with future pilots likely to expect to find the wearable technology in any cockpit they encounter.

A key part of this is comfort – for long-haul flights pilots will need to wear the goggles for several hours at a time, which Elbit has clearly kept in mind when creating Skylens.

“As the Skylens HUD has to be wearable and comfortable, it is designed to be very light and closer in appearance to a sunglass with a large visor rather than a helmet, which would be bulkier, heavier and possibly, prevent adoption,” added Saquer.

“Evidently, Elbit Systems has designed the wearable Skylens HUD system keeping in mind end-user requirements and perceptions, paying close attention to the demands of long-haul flights.”


Images courtesy of Elbit Systems.