Safety expertise for implementing innovative Smart City projects

You may have heard the term Smart City, but what is it exactly? Well, it is a modern, intelligent, and technologically advanced urban area that utilizes different sensors to collect specific data. The information gained from that data can then be used to manage assets, resources, and services more efficiently. It then works to improve operations throughout the city. The concept of a Smart City has a few goals: make our cities more efficient, environmentally friendly, and advanced. One important component of a Smart City is autonomous vehicles, especially ones that can independently transport passengers.

SICK, as a partner of Siemens, contributed its safety expertise to a pilot project in Hamburg HafenCity in Germany. The challenge was to use sensors in the infrastructure to detect people and objects in complex urban situations to assist autonomous buses on their routes through the city using the captured data. Over a period of several months, millions of measurement data were analyzed and evaluated.

In Hamburg HafenCity in late 2021, numerous partners tested the future of autonomous public transportation. An autonomous electric bus navigated between a total of five stops along a 1.1 mile stretch and transported passengers through Hamburg’s world-famous suburb – in a trial operation with a backup driver.

The bus was supported along its route through the complex urban environment by infrastructure sensors that provided the autonomous bus with additional data about its surroundings in particularly difficult to navigate areas.

The main objective was to improve the performance and the safety of the passengers and other road users. At one intersection with poor visibility, LiDAR sensors from SICK were also tested in a collaboration between Siemens and SICK. The bus was out and about for several months during the pilot project. Enough time to capture comprehensive measurement data using the sensors at the street intersections.

Extensive evaluation of measurement data

Several sensor systems were utilized same time in the test field. This enabled the data from the different systems to be directly compared to systematically investigate their strengths and weaknesses. A particular challenge was how to handle the enormous quantities of data gathered from the numerous sensors. A cloud-based analysis software specially developed by SICK allows the automatic identification of critical deviations and a systematic investigation of safety-relevant situations.

At the conclusion of the project, it was clear. This data-driven approach can provide reliable insights into the performance and safety-related characteristics of the sensor systems even in this difficult to navigate inner-city scenario. The results of the joint study were then used to validate the overall system and presented in a plenary session of the conference in Munich in a joint contribution by Siemens and SICK.

“SICK's experience and expertise in the area of rugged and reliable detection and data collection by sensors was essential to achieving the project objectives,” said, Rolf Schmid, Senior Expert Validation at Siemens. “When it comes to data collection, evaluation, plausibility, and validation, SICK was exactly the right partner for this project.”

“Only through the automated evaluation of large quantities of field data were we able to draw conclusions on the reliability and availability of our system in an urban environment. This was made possible by the trusting partnership with Siemens at the real-life intersections,” said Magnus Albert, Senior Expert Safety Methods at SICK AG. “That was pivotal in our ability to use these totally novel data-driven approaches for verification purposes, and to show that the system is already very reliable.”

Making a safe AND smart city

As part of the Smart City initiatives, more and more cities are now striving to increase their safety, efficiency, sustainability, and consequently the quality of life of their citizens, using new technologies through increasing digitization. This is the only way for cities to remain competitive and ready for the future.

Smart City initiatives affect many different aspects of our lives, such as buildings, supply and disposal of goods and data, mobility, service provision, health care, water, or energy supply. The area of mobility permeates most areas of a Smart City and is almost always a prerequisite for the smooth operation of a city of the future. The expansion of infrastructure and traffic services right through to “smart mobility” is therefore a key objective.

Smart mobility is also expected to make a decisive contribution to the so-called “Vision Zero,” which is the goal to achieve zero traffic-related fatalities. Especially because a large proportion of the road causalities in cities involve pedestrians and cyclists aka Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs).

Using highly automated and autonomous vehicles in our local public transport systems is essential for achieving these goals. These vehicles can be operated much more safely, avoid accidents, and maintain traffic flow. To operate them safely, though, requires specific information that can only be determined using data from sensors in the infrastructure.

This data must also always be available, reliable, and meaningful for smart city initiatives. It is in precisely this area that the aforementioned expertise of SICK can make a fundamental contribution and facilitate these solutions. Together with Siemens, SICK Smart Mobility has substantially progressed the realization of these goals, thereby enabling Smart Cities to design their traffic systems to be even safer and more sustainable.

Want to learn more about projects like this? Contact a SICK representative today!