Complete with multiple LiDAR, radar and camera sensors, the Siemens Combino tram has multiple virtual eyes with which to view oncoming traffic. And inside, algorithms interpret that data and give instructions. Siemens says in a press release that the Combino can interpret tram signals, stop at tram stops, and even react autonomously to hazards like crossing pedestrians and other vehicles.
On its first trial runs in live traffic, the Combino performed as expected on its 3.7-mile (6km) route. With a veteran human conductor riding along as backup, the tram showed no problems with bikes or cars that crossed its path. At one point, Siemens staged an emergency when an employee pushed a baby stroller onto the tracks. When the obstacle was spotted by its sensors, the tram immediately hit its brakes.
Debuting at InnoTrans 2018, an expo dedication to transportation, the tram felt as much a part of the present as it did the future. A visitor told The Guardian, the first English-speaking publication to ride the tram, that the ride felt practically normal.
“Truth be told, it does looks rather underwhelming, a normal low-floor tram, but closer up you see all the discreet technology like the sensors, and to see it tackle real-time traffic and to think this is the future, it’s a bit like what it must have been to witness the transition from horse-drawn to steam trams or gas to electric,” he said.