DB invests 15 million in smart sensors for more punctual rail traffic

Deutsche Bahn invests 15 million euros in an innovative smart sensor technology to increase the punctuality of the rail operation. The sensors will be tested on Hamburg S-Bahn vehicles in early 2021. The German rail company has already integrated sensors in the rail infrastructure and vehicle to increase the reliability of rail traffic. DB will upgrade the smart switches on more busy routes.

“We are accelerating the digital rail in Germany and thus ensuring more capacity in the network,” says Ronald Pofalla, DB Infrastructure Board Member. “With smart technology, switches and vehicles become more intelligent, and rail traffic noticeably more robust.”

The project for the smart sensor technology is part of the Digitale Schiene Deutschland programme that has started in 2018. This project aims to improve the capacity and efficiency of rail with digitalization.


The Sensors4Rail project starts on the vehicle of the Hamburg S-Bahn route. The train will be equipped with sensors that will identify the area surrounding the train. The accumulated data will be compared to the digital map of the infrastructure to locate the vehicle in real-time. This allows the trains to run at shorter intervals creating more capacity on the route without any increase to upgrade the infrastructure as a whole.

The sensors placed on the vehicle will allow the turnouts to automatically report to the maintenance staff for any impending fault that will happen. This allows for trains to operate one behind each other at a faster and consistent pace. Since the middle of 2020, sensors have already been diagnosing over 28,000 turnouts verifying that the electric drive is functioning properly. The sensors have successfully found and prevented 4,600 defects, according to DB. A third of these points are connected to a diagnostic platform called DIANA.

DB uses DIANA for preventive maintenance, which they also call the ‘heart monitor’. The new upgraded technology can additionally monitor the situation and the material. There will be 1,300 turnouts installations on heavily used routes. “ It will be a great benefit to our customers and the entire sector. In this way, together with our industrial partners, we ensure traffic growth on the climate-friendly rail, ” adds board member Ronald Pofalla of DB infrastructure.

Joint project

Deutsche Bahn will be responsible for project management, vehicle engineering and Admission and Security in cooperation with Siemens Mobility, Bosch, HERE Technologies and Ibeo Automotive Systems. Siemens will help with vehicle integration, take responsibility for system tests and localization of the train’s front position by using a modern odometry unit with integrating GNSS satellite positioning.

Bosch will integrate radar, Infrared long-range, mid-range and stereo cameras. Ibeo Automotive Systems will install LIDAR sensors to be used even at night or during fog to create a reliable image of the train’s environment. HERE will contribute with delivering the HD map in 3D. The 3D map will assimilate the surroundings on routes such as buildings, bridges or platform edges. This will allow comparing the ACTUAL surrounding with the TARGET status.

Author: Sarah Chebaro

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