WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Metrorail plans to bring back automated trains for the first time in decades.

When Metrorail debuted in 1976, the system was built with something called Automatic Train Operation, or “ATO.” Allowing for a smoother and more efficient ride, ATO means that there’s a train operator on board, but they don’t actually “drive” the train.

Instead, it’s the automated system that stops and starts the train. The train operator is left in charge of opening and closing the doors, making announcements, and responding to any emergencies that pop up.

ATO was used on Metrorail until coming to a grinding halt in 2009 after a crash right outside of the Fort Totten station. An automated train slammed into the back of another, killing 8 passengers and a train operator in what remains the deadliest crash in Metro history.

Initially, it was believed that ATO was to blame for the crash. However, after extensive investigations carried out by several agencies, it was determined that ATO was not at fault; but rather a broken track circuit that sent an incorrect message to the automated system of the incoming train, making it “think” that there wasn’t another train ahead of it.

Metro officials now believe the time has come to bring ATO back.

“We are the only transit rail property in the world that has regressed from the technology that we started with to where we are,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke at a board meeting last month.

Making the switch back from manually-operated trains to ATO has quite the upside for riders. Because of the fact that trains will run more precisely on schedule, you can expect virtually zero “stop-and-go” scenarios (if you ride Metro, you’re probably no stranger to being in a tunnel and the train coming to a brief, seemingly random stop). The transit agency says ATO is safer and “more efficient” because it removes human error.

Metro plans to start testing ATO after-hours on the Red Line in the coming months. The goal is to have ATO up and running on all six lines by the end of 2023. Before anything is finalized, Metro will need the green light from it’s safety watchdog, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC).

“We ran on an ATO system, which is the way every major, safe rail system in the world operates, and we don’t operate on that now,” Clarke said.