October 24, 2021

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The autonomous train is being tested for the first time in Germany, SNCF aims for 2023

A driverless train made its first trips on the Hamburg metropolitan network on Monday, October 11, a “first of its kind in the world”, according to Deutsche Bahn and Siemens, for this technology that should significantly help improve traffic regularity. The demonstration took place at an international conference on transportation.

From December, four independent trains of this type will enter service in the northern German port city as part of a €60 million modernization project for the urban “S-Bahn”. “Deutsche Bahn and Siemens have developed the world’s first autonomous train,” the two groups said in a statement.

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This technology does not require a specific railway track, the autonomous train operates on the same network as the drivers. If passengers are on board, the rail operator is still in the cockpit, for safety’s sake. But the train does its maneuvers independently, for example in warehouses.

The autonomous technology, based on a European digital communication protocol, should make it possible to carry “up to 30% more passengers” while “improving punctuality and reducing energy consumption by 30%,” according to Roland Bosch, Siemens president. “The technology has already been approved,” he said in a press release.

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For Deutsche Bahn, automation should allow “a better view without the need to build a kilometer of new railways,” notes Richard Lutz, general operator manager. In France, SNCF is working with partners, including Alstom, Bosch and Thales, to “generalize a prototype with full autonomy in 2023”. During a test at the end of 2020, the locomotive was traded for the first time in a semi-autonomous network on the French national grid.

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