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How Canadian 'science Fiction' Drives Subway Trains Abroad

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Hong Kong subway

Subway-control systems are perfected in simulations before they are implemented in operational systems like Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway.

Credit: TravelPod

Inside a north Toronto office building, rows of bulky computers operate virtual subway systems half a world away in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dubai, managing trains as they pull into stations, drop off passengers, and accelerate through tunnels.

The action is a computer simulation, a kind of subway video game. But for the engineers at Toronto-based Thales Rail Signalling Solutions Inc., the virtual subways they operate are vital for ensuring passengers in major global centers get where they’re going quickly and safely.

Once perfected in the Toronto office, Thales Rail installs its subway-control systems around the world for real-life use, allowing computers to automatically drive subway trains and even co-ordinate train scheduling, with little or no human help.

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