Germany’s Hamburg has become the first city in the world to run an automated, self-driving train on existing S-Bahn rail infrastructure.
German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) and industrial group Siemens are the pioneers behind this achievement. Billed as a ‘world first’, it is part of their $70 million modernization project for Hamburg’s rapid urban rail system.
Initial tests show that the automated, driverless train is more punctual and energy efficient than traditional trains.
According to a Siemens’ press release, the digital S-Bahn had its premiere run at the opening of the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress (ITS) in Hamburg.
During the congress, four digital S-Bahn trains will operate automatically along the 23-kilometer section of S-Bahn Line 21 between the Berliner Tor and Bergedorf/Aumühle stations.
The technical basis for digital rail operations is the future European Automatic Train Operation (ATO) standard, combined with the European Train Control System (ETCS).
Siemens says that the trains will receive their control signals via radio and the four digital S-Bahn trains in Hamburg are scheduled to provide regular scheduled passenger service beginning in December.
Plans to digitalize Hamburg’s S-Bahn entire system by the end of the decade are already under way, and investments in trains and infrastructure are being made by partners supporting the Deutsche Bahn-Siemens endeavor.
The technology is projected to be used nationwide for regional and mainline rail systems.
It should be noted that cities like Paris already have self-driving metros while airports often have automated monorail trains plying terminals.
But these run on exclusive single tracks while the Hamburg train will be sharing tracks with other regular trains, notes DB’s CEO Dr. Richard Lutz.
“We are making rail transport more intelligent,” says Siemens CEO Roland Busch, estimating that automated trains can transport up to 30% more passengers, significantly improve punctuality and save more than 30% energy.
Although the train is controlled through digital technology and fully automated, a driver will still be present to supervise journeys whenever there are passengers on board, the companies said in a statement.
Image and content: Siemens