"Autonomous" trains will all travel at the same speed and their movements will be harmonised, leading to a more frequent and more punctual service, Pepy predicted.
Energy consumption should go down, according to the plan, and there will be more trains on the most heavily used lines.
The SNCF joined other companies, notably engineering companies Alstom and Bombardier, in forming two consortiums, one to build freight trains, the other passenger ones.
The first freight trains, described as "drone trains", should be operating in 2021.
More completely automated freight trains and passenger trains should be ready in 2023.
The SNCF in contact with its German counterpart about the project, SNCF technology boss Pierre Izard said.