Sensors for environmental perception

Thanks to smart sensor technology, trains have an eye on their surroundings at all times

To digitise the railway system, there’s a need for technology that can detect the train’s surroundings – both inside and outside the vehicle, and at stations. High-performance sensor technology (camera, Lidar, radar) is used in and on the vehicle, as well as on the railway infrastructure. The detection of objects and structures is based on sensor fusion. Intelligent software then combines the collected information in real time. 
The big advantages: 

  • With an environmental detection system – outside the vehicle, for example – the surroundings can be analysed at lightning speed. This enables the vehicle to continuously assess whether or not objects should be classified as obstacles. This enables a faster response to external influences – sensory environmental perception can classify faults and help to remedy them more quickly and automatically.
  • Combined with a digital map and precise location sensing, the perception of the environment outside the vehicle can be used to determine the exact location of the train.
  • Through sensory data collection within the vehicle and at stations, sensor information can be used for passenger guidance and crowd management.

When will the technology be used?

In the Sensors4Rail cooperation project between Deutsche Bahn, Bosch Engineering, HERE Technologies, Ibeo Automotive Systems and Siemens Mobility, technology for environmental perception outside the vehicle is being tested. In the process, the course of the track is recognised and related to the driving situation and surrounding objects to determine the right reactions. A Hamburg S-Bahn train was equipped with this sensor technology in October 2020. Test runs begin in spring 2021. In October 2021, the technology will be demonstrated live to the public at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Congress in special journeys.