World’s ‘first autonomous’ tram carries passengers in Germany

SIEMENS and Potsdam transport operator Verkehrsbetrieb Potsdam (ViP) have developed what they claim is the world’s first autonomous driverless tram.

The tram carried its first passengers in a media demonstration run on September 18, timed to coincide with the Innotrans trade fair in nearby Berlin.

ViP Combino 400 at Babelsberg tram depot on September 18. The branding on the side at roof level advertises it as the world’s first autonomous tram. KEITH FENDER

Fully autonomous unmanned freight trains are already in operation in remote parts of Western Australia, where mining company Rio Tinto has been operating 28,000-tonne freight trains without drivers since the summer of 2018.

The Potsdam tram by contrast operates in a busy city with roads and footpaths crossing the tramway.

The autonomous tram technology developed by Siemens is a combination of new advanced software and algorithms plus a range of hardware sensors and other equipment mounted on the tram and linked to the tram’s central computer.

The equipment includes high-definition digital cameras mounted above the windscreen, radar sensors similar to those used in some modern cars, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser-based measurement systems, and a GPS system on the cab roof.

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