Keeping the Trains Running: The Digital Transformation of Transportation Taking off in Hamburg with Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Siemens Mobility Partnership

Today, all forms of smart technology are rapidly being adopted by industries of all types, thanks to the myriad of benefits they offer for optimization and efficiency. While pinning down a definition for something as diverse as smart technology can be quite an arduous task, the word “SMART” refers to “self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology.” Overall, it is a technology that uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analysis to provide cognitive awareness to objects that were in the past considered inanimate, leading to new levels of efficiency through automation.

The field of smart technology and automation is developing at a relentless pace, making innovations outdated almost as quickly as they arrive. For example, in 2022, the number of connected devices is anticipated to reach 1.1 billion, while 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies plan to have at least one data-related plan implemented within the year. The exponential growth of smart technology has organizations of all types attempting to find the technology that suits their objective the best and adopts it.

One area of smart technology that is truly blossoming and reaching the public is automated vehicles of all types, from personal cars to public transportation. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the compound annual growth rate of worldwide shipments of connected vehicles will reach 16.8 percent in the next five years, and by 2024, the global annual shipments of smart cars are expected to reach about 76.2 million. However, while the future looks solid for smart vehicles, the present holds innovations just as exciting for the automated vehicle industry as well.

Recently, Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Siemens Mobility have developed the world’s first train that operates by itself in rail traffic. Dr. Richard Lutz, CEO of DB, and Dr. Roland Busch, CEO of Siemens AG, together with Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, was present as the train made its premiere run not too many days ago.

“Today, we’re experiencing the true turn of an era: The railroad has arrived in the digital future, and Digital Rail Germany has become a reality,” said Dr. Richard Lutz, CEO of DB. “With automated rail operations, we can offer our passengers a significantly expanded, more reliable and therefore improved service, without having to lay a single kilometer of new track. It is our goal to make rail transport attractive to ever-larger numbers of people, which is the only way we can achieve the mobility transition.”

The digital S-Bahn had its premiere run at the opening of the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress (ITS) in Hamburg. During the congress, four digital S-Bahn trains will operate automatically along the 23-kilometer section of S-Bahn Line 21 between the Berliner Tor and Bergedorf/Aumühle stations.

The train is controlled by digital technology and is fully automated; however, the driver remains on the train to supervise the journey with passengers on board. Shunting, such as turning the train around, is done without on-board personnel.

The technical basis for digital rail operations is the future European Automatic Train Operation (ATO) standard, combined with the European Train Control System (ETCS). The trains receive their control signals via radio. The four digital S-Bahn trains in Hamburg will provide regularly scheduled passenger service beginning in December. Plans to digitize Hamburg’s S-Bahn entire system by the end of the decade are already underway, and investments in trains and infrastructure are being made. The technology is projected to be used nationwide for regional and mainline rail systems.

“We are making rail transport more intelligent. Trains drive the perfect timetable automatically, accurate to the second and energy-optimized,” says Dr. Roland Busch, CEO of Siemens AG. “This way, we are supporting our partner Deutsche Bahn in its goal of making train travel more attractive and protecting the climate. With the technology, customers can transport up to 30 percent more passengers, significantly improve punctuality and save more than 30 percent energy. The digital S-Bahn Hamburg marks a world premiere. The new technology has already been officially approved and, since it features open interfaces, can immediately be used by operators worldwide for all types of trains.”

Overall, the project partners DB, Siemens Mobility, and the City of Hamburg have invested a total of €60 million, which is just under $70 million USD, in the digital S-Bahn Hamburg, which is part of DB’s Digital Rail Germany project. However, the project signifies a major step forward for the field of automated vehicles, as it’s the first driverless train out there. And, as the demand for automated transportation grows amidst climate change concerts, smart technology, like the digital S-Bahn, holds an endless amount of potential for helping consumers and the environment alike.

“Digitisation holds a lot of potential for the entire Hamburg S-Bahn network. We are creating greater capacities on the existing tracks and improving the reliability and punctuality of rail travel,” said Dr. Peter Tschentscher, First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. “The premiere of the digital S-Bahn at the ITS World Congress is a strong signal for efficient and climate-friendly mobility of the future.”

Matt Vulpis

Matt Vulpis is a fresh out of college writer/journalist, already with a myriad of published articles across a variety of topics and industries. He is very passionate about writing, as well as sports, and television/film. While he enjoys writing articles pertaining to business tech, he wants to one day write a TV show as a head screenwriter. He has a bachelors in journalism with a minor in sports studies from Quinnipiac University.

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