Driverless Tram Will Get Debut Spin in Berlin - Next City

Driverless Light Rail Vehicle to Make Demonstration Run in Potsdam This Month

Driverless rapid transit trains have been around for decades. But driverless streetcars, like driverless cars, remain a technology in development. And now, as has been taking place for a little while with driverless cars and buses, the technology has advanced to the point where it’s ready for some real-world testing.

The International Railway Journal reports that railcar manufacturer Siemens and the transit authority of Potsdam, Germany, will put an autonomous light rail vehicle (LRV) through its paces on a four-day demonstration run during InnoTrans, the biennial international transportation technology trade fair that takes place at the nearby Berlin ExpoCenter this year Sept. 18-21.

According to a Siemens press release, the vehicle is a Siemens Combino LRV that has been outfitted with multiple cameras, radar and lidar sensors that will deliver information about the vehicle’s surroundings to an onboard computer that functions as the vehicle’s “brain.” The computer performs complex algorithms that spot hazards in the vehicle’s path and determine the appropriate response, such as stopping for a wayside signal, stopping at a platform to pick up or discharge passengers, and braking for crossing pedestrians and vehicles.

The LRV will make its debut test runs in mixed traffic on a 6-km (3.73-mile) stretch of Potsdam’s tram network. A longer report on the trial on the news site Smart Cities Dive states that the vehicle, which was built solely for testing purposes, builds on existing autonomous train technology Siemens has developed. The longer reaction times and stopping distances trains require have slowed the development of autonomous vehicle technology on the rails, according to the report.

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