Autonomous driving with the city railway

Thales Deutschland and the AVG sign expression of interest in research project

At Innotrans in Berlin, the world’s leading trade fair for railway technology, the managing directors of Thales Deutschland and of the AVG (Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft) signed an agreement on the cooperation of the two companies regarding a joint project for autonomous driving. Together, they want to develop an electric city railway that drives autonomously.

In the initial phase, the contract partners will have test drives performed until the end of the year in two increasing levels (GoA 3 and GoA 4) at the depot of the “Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe”, a sister company of the AVG. The levels describe the degree of automation. In level 3, the trains drive accompanied but driverless. Instead of a train driver’s constant control, there is only a train attendant present. The attendant is responsible for door control and is able to move the train via an emergency operating panel. In level 4, as a test, the train drives fully automatic without a driver. All operation is automated. The train operation can, however, be intervened by the control centre.
In a second phase, the different Thales solutions installed will also be tested outside the depot in cooperation with the “Karlsruher Institut für Technologie” (KIT). The medium-term aim is to achieve series maturity and approval for the tested modules.

The AVG aims to develop new sectors with electronic vehicles that drive autonomously and require no contact wire. “We can contribute to offering economic rail transport in rural areas, which, hitherto, have not been attended to sufficiently or not at all. However, this does not mean that we want to replace our well-trained crew,” Ascan Egerer, technical managing director of the AVG, stresses. “We make a strong contribution to the protection of the environment with emission-free public transport.” The AVG wants to bring their experience in developing new vehicle concepts and the practical application of these into the consortium, in order to realise the idea of an autonomously driving, electric city railway and define appropriate areas of application in cooperation with the partners. A partially contact-wire-less operation is one component of the overall project. “After the development of the TramTrain, we want to perform pioneering work for the Karlsruhe model once again,” Egerer says.

“To us, the project in Karlsruhe is a very important step towards the autonomous train in Germany. We have more than 130 years of expertise in security and signalling of rail transport. In this, innovation has always been our driving force. We combine classic products with new and innovative technologies, in order to support our clients with their great ambitions – e.g. with “autonomous driving”, “IoT and connectivity”, “artificial intelligence”, “big data” or “cyber security”. Every year, eight billion rail travellers benefit from our technologies,” comments Dr. Yves Joannic, managing director of Thales Deutschland and responsible for the rail segment.

Picture: Signing the contract at InnoTrans in Berlin: Dr. Yves Joannic,Thales Deutschland, Ascan Egerer, technischer Geschäftsführer AVG, Dr. Christoph Hoppe, Thales Deutschland, Dr. Alexander Pischon, AVG (sitzend von links), Dr. Thilo Grabo, AVG, Prof. Dr. Peter Gratzfeld, Institut für Fahrzeugsystemtechnik, KIT And Dr. Alfred Veider, Thales.