GERMANY: ViP Verkehrsbetrieb Potsdam and Siemens Mobility have successfully demonstrated the operation of an autonomous tram as part of the Autonomous Tram in Depot project.

Backed by the federal Ministry of Transport & Digital Infrastructure’s mFUND innovation initiative, the AStriD project is working to develop a fully automated tram depot. Work began in October 2019 and the technology is expected to be market-ready in 2026.

During InnoTrans 2018, Siemens Mobility and ViP operated a test tram under real road conditions on a section of the Potsdam tram network. This initiative led to the launch of the three-year AStriD research project, which is looking to create a ‘digital depot’, in which autonomous trams can move themselves through the washing plant and in and out of the stabling sidings. This was seen as a first step towards a more widespread introduction of autonomous operation.


The project consortium brings together Siemens Mobility; ViP; the ITIV Institute for Information Processing Technology at Karlsruhe Institute for Technology; the IKEM institute for climate protection, energy and mobility; and industrial systems specialist Codewerk.

Siemens Mobility is developing the self-driving tram and the yard management system that issues the movement instructions. It is also working with the KIT to develop a ‘digital map’ for tracking the location of vehicles within the depot. ITIV is also contributing its expertise in process automation, identifying the data required and developing the specifications for digitalising the depot.

As a developer of software for data communication on rail vehicles, Codewerk is supporting the communication between the tram and control centre as well as integrating parts of the depot infrastructure. ViP has provided the tram and depot infrastructure for the demonstration project, along with the related facilities, and is evaluating the project findings from the perspective of a transport operator.

Meanwhile, IKEM is analysing and evaluating the related legal and economic factors around the authorisation and operation of autonomous vehicles.

‘AStriD is an important milestone on the way to achieving self-driving trams’, explained Albrecht Neumann, CEO Rolling Stock of Siemens Mobility during a live demonstration on August 23. ‘Working with our partners, we are using valuable synergies to digitalise the depot and reduce time-consuming on-site shunting.’

‘Autonomous driving along the tram route and within the depot relieves our drivers and increases the safety of our passengers and other road users’, added ViP CEO Uwe Loeschmann. ‘Autonomous tram operation in our depot with the AStriD system opens up the possibility of automated cleaning, supply and parking processes under central control.’

Potsdam Mayor Mike Schubert said the state capital and its transport company were pleased to support this ‘important, future-oriented project’, which showed ‘how the spirit of innovation is thriving in Potsdam’.