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‘Autonomous transportation complements train’

Many innovations could be found last month at the InnoTrans railway fair, including autonomous buses. This new type of transport does not have to be competition for the train, says Jan Scheepers of Ricardo Rail: “Autonomous transport is a supplement.”

“You can see that companies are really pushing the technology forward,” sales and business development manager Scheepers says. Although autonomous transport may seem to be a competitor of rail transport, Scheepers believes that is not the case. “If you start a sort of call service with an autonomous shuttle, you could pick people up at central points and bring them to local stations. It is a supplement to train transport.”


Several companies showcased the latest in autonomous technologies in the Messe in Berlin. Alstom announced a test with autonomous freight trains on the Betuweroute in the Netherlands will include object sensors. The experiment will be carried out in November. The tests on the dedicated freight line concern Automatic Train Operation (ATO), testing automation level 2.

Siemens Mobility and ViP Verkehrsbetrieb Potsdam GmbH presented their research project on the world’s first autonomous tram at the trade fair. It is an experimental tram, not to be used for commercial services. The current project aims at identifying the technological challenges of autonomous driving under real-life conditions, then developing and testing solutions for them.

Good data

Another development in the railway sector that is still very much topic of discussion, is big data and IoT for predictive maintenance. Business manager Consultancy Rail Safety and Infra Robert Oosterhof of Ricardo Rail: “There is a lot of interest in good data about the condition of the track. We are very much involved with Ricardo in monitoring the infrastructure so that you can gather information that, for example, allows rail contractors to carry out maintenance in a preventive manner. They can save a lot of money with that.”

According to Oosterhof, these developments are important for the future, as railway networks around the world will only be used more extensively in the future. “It is very important to be able to identify such innovations early and to anticipate where the railways will require maintenance. ”


Ricardo Rail looks back on a successful InnoTrans. “It is always the meeting place for the international rail world. We had many constructive meetings and good conversations with possibilities for follow-up.”

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Author: Carlijn Kruidhof

Carlijn Kruidhof is editor for and She also writes for the other business-to-business titles of ProMedia Group.

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