Assisted and driverless train operation 

Assisted and driverless train operation

Growing urbanization is accelerating the demand for greater mobility and reinforcing an unstoppable trend: the shifting of transport from road to rail. At the same time, however, a shortage of trained drivers is already foreseeable in the immediate future. How can we solve this dilemma? Our response is to assist drivers by using groundbreaking innovations and to automate essential functions and workflows – in other words, to provide completely new, railway-specific technology concepts for assisted driving and for driverless trains and trams. We’re already advancing at full speed toward this goal.

Meeting challenges

Into the future with innovative train operation

How do we safely and sustainably deal with the increasing demand for mobility in rapidly growing cities around the world? How can we expand and consolidate the capacity of rail transport given a shortage of well-trained drivers? And how can rail transport remain competitive in a future of self-driving vehicles? The answer is through increasing automation, from assisted driving to driverless train operation.

Assisted or driverless train operation for mainline and regional railways – the solution to many challenges

Given the growing demands placed on rail transport, the looming shortage of qualified personnel, and the coming of self-driving cars, shuttle buses, and trucks that compete with rail transport in terms of attractiveness, operators of mainline and regional trains and trams need new solutions. These solutions must optimally satisfy their passengers’ demands for punctuality, flexibility, capacity, and sustainability while also being competitive. And they must continue to improve the safety of passengers, personnel, and other transportation users and become even better at preventing accidents.

You’ll meet all these challenges with assisted and driverless train operation – which are a main focus of our work. For example, our Siemens Tram Assistant collision warning system is already on board as a driver assistance system in trams in The Hague, Ulm, Bremen, and Copenhagen, and is protecting passengers, other transportation users, and the vehicles themselves against collisions and the accompanying damage. Other Siemens assistance systems ensure energy-optimized driving. To further advance assisted and driverless train operation, we’re now developing the Siemens Mainline Assistant collision warning system, among others, for commuter, regional, and mainline transport. Our goal is to shift from assisted driving to driverless train operation.

Use Cases

On track to driverless train operation

Driverless train operation with Grade of Automation (GoA) Level 4 has already become established in a growing number of metro lines in cities around the world. Mainline, regional, and tram operators can also increase the capacity, flexibility, and energy efficiency of their rail operations by using higher levels of automation – starting with assistance systems for drivers and continuing with automatic obstacle detection, which is a key building block in future train automation in various use cases.
Sensor based obstacle detection

The new era of assisted and driverless train operation

The requirements that driverless train operation places on automation differ from those of self-driving vehicles. The challenges facing trams are different from those of regional and mainline trains. That’s why solutions from genuine rail experts are needed. Siemens Mobility provides you with everything you need from a single source, from railway infrastructure, vehicles, and services, to hardware, software, digital solutions, and AI.

How our Rail Perception System works


A closer look at the sensor types

Assisted driving and driverless train operation are becoming a reality. The combination of three sensor technologies delivers an in-depth 3D image of the surroundings.

Partnerships for the driverless train operation of the future

Whether assisted, fully automated, or driverless train operation, whether for mainline, regional, or tram operations – in addition to our closely coordinated expert network, we also collaborate with leading research and testing facilities, international initiatives and joint undertakings, and the relevant certification authorities when developing our groundbreaking mobility solutions.

Testing in the Advanced TrainLab

We not only thoroughly test our systems on our own test beds, but we also use other unique test bays to extensively test system behavior systematically and realistically under the harshest circumstances and in various weather conditions. Together with Deutsche Bahn (DB), we use the Advanced TrainLab, a Class 605 ICE TD, both as a prototype and as a presentation platform for obstacle detection. The Advanced TrainLab operated by DB makes it possible to test new technologies in railway operations. Thanks to special brackets and covers, the sensor set could be fully integrated into the ICE TD, meets railway standards, and can also be used at high speeds.

Working together to advance industry-wide standardization

On the European level, our experts contribute their experience in the research and development of collision warning and obstacle detection systems to the EU’s innovative program Shift2Rail. The program’s goal is to promote industry-wide standardization in order to speed up the introduction of new technologies and increase security of investment. Siemens is one of the founding members of the Shift2Rail joint undertaking initiated by the European Union for innovation in the railway sector.

Laying the groundwork for approval of fully automated systems

Within the framework of various pilot projects, we’re putting the elements in place for obtaining the approval of fully automated systems. We’re calling for the establishment of additional, more essential approval requirements by 2023. For this purpose, Siemens Mobility is working with the German Center for Rail Traffic Research (DZSF) of the German Federal Railways Office (EBA) and other partners on two research projects for developing risk acceptance criteria for fully automated systems and requirements for the sensors and logic of automated systems.

Safe AI using the example of a driverless regional train

According to the state of the art, conventional automation technology alone will not be sufficient for fully automated rail operations. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, holds great potential in this field. The as yet unsolved challenge is to link AI processes to the requirements and approval processes in the rail environment. That's where the national funding project safe.trAIn comes in.

Our experts are working together in a consortium of technology suppliers, research institutions and standardization and testing organizations to develop approaches and general conditions to combine the capabilities of artificial intelligence with the safety considerations of rail transport. Based on the requirements for safety case procedures, test methods and tools for AI-based methods for use in a driverless regional train are being developed and then validated and verified in a virtual test environment. The focus is on AI-based functions for object recognition.

Creating a basis for fully automated operation

One building block on the way there is our BerDiBa (Berliner Digitaler Bahnbetrieb) research project. In close cooperation with several partners, we are researching and testing the core technologies for (fully) automated driving on rail under real operating conditions, e.g. for detecting obstacles in the track, hazards to passengers on the train and automated observation of changes in the rail infrastructure.

The project is 50% funded by the state of Berlin and the EU also acts as co-financier, so that the overall project is on a secure footing until 2024. We are leading the research and developments, in close cooperation with the following project partners:

Technische Universität Berlin, Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS), Konrad Zuse Center for Information Technology Berlin, ITQ GmbH, Teraki GmbH, Televic Rail GmbH and neurocat GmbH.


Current use cases of the Obstacle Detection System and Automation

Tomorrow’s mobility in use today – discover where our Obstacle Detection System is already proving its capabilities.

Digital Train Solutions

Siemens Mobility uses secure and seamless IT solutions to create added value for passengers, operators, and service personnel.

Train IT

Take the lead over the competition with powerful, future-oriented IT systems for your trains. With this fully integrated solution, you control your vehicles from a central point and have full access to all train data at a single location.


How can we help you?

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Our specialists will be happy to answer all your questions about automatic obstacle detection.