In the mission "Autonomy and Cooperation for Critical Systems", we are researching new systems in the Vehicular Applications Group of the department Communication Systems to improve environmental friendliness, flexibility, efficiency and safety in road and rail transport. To this end, we are focusing our research on the key technologies of robust multi-sensor localization and reliable, low-latency communications in the mid-term goals "Infrastructure-less Communication and Localization for Next Generation Railways" and "Guardian Angel - Protecting Vulnerable Road Users." For example, we explore how these key technologies enable automatic and virtual coupling of trains - also known as platooning of trains - or the protection of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists. The research is experimental, simulative, and theoretical in nature. Many of the research tasks can be formulated as estimation or decision problems. They require a good understanding of the underlying models, such as propagation, process, and sensor models. The theoretical investigations and approaches are then validated in real-world scenarios through extensive series of tests, experiments, and research prototypes.
A central goal of the research work on "Infrastructure-less Communication and Localization for Next Generation Railways" is to bring more passenger and freight traffic on the railways, to increase passenger comfort through fewer transfers, to better secure necessary level crossings, and to enable a more flexible composition of trains in order to optimize line capacities. To achieve this, rail traffic, for example, needs a higher degree of automation. Together with cooperation partners, we are leading the planning and development of the necessary communication and localization algorithms enabling these new solutions and testing them in real environments. For these field tests, we were able to retrofit a specially equipped high-speed train, Deutsche Bahn's "advanced TrainLab", as a rolling laboratory for robust multi-sensor localization and reliable, low-latency communication with radio-frequency technology, special antennas and sensors on board and conduct extensive test series and experiments in real scenarios.
Another innovative research approach is virtual coupling of trains: reliable wireless data transmission as well as high localization accuracy of trains are fundamental prerequisites for virtual coupling, i.e. when trains are no longer mechanically connected and can be combined or separated on the fly. Carriages with different routes could be coupled in one train and passed to other trains during the journey on the open tracks. In virtual coupling, a lead train controls one or more, subsequent train through a digital, wireless connection. Thus, the rail network capacity can be increased by a denser train sequence.
In road traffic, the Vehicular Applications Group researches also the extremely promising "eFence" approach as part of the "Guardian Angel" mid-term goal. “eFence” will protect road users who are not specially equipped, are not cooperative, and are vulnerable, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, from accidents. To this end, we use communication systems originally developed for data exchange between autonomous road vehicles as sensors and thus reliably detect pedestrians and cyclists, even if they are not carrying a smartphone. Thus, particularly vulnerable road users are digitally captured and digitized for future autonomous road traffic.
Based on our many years of experience, we in the Vehicular Applications Group are proven and recognized experts on these groundbreaking technologies and thus for the safe, efficient and flexible train and road traffic of tomorrow. We successfully contribute our expertise in working groups of standardization bodies, such as the Joint Taskforce of Intelligent Transportation Systems and Rail Telecommunications Technical Committee (JTFIR) of the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI) as well as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802) and its subgroups, in order to make our developed research approaches and results available to a broad public.
The knowledge gained from the test series on safe and flexible train traffic is now being used to further develop key technologies, prototypes, applications, and possibly together with industrial partners, ready-to-use products. For the transport system of the future, the Vehicular Applications Group is continuing to push the digitization of rail and road transport and the associated value creation.