Innovation challenge seeks tram driver safety invention

An exciting open innovation challenge has been launched to create a device to detect when a tram driver might be about to lose consciousness due to illness or fatigue and notify the control centre.


Spearheaded jointly by the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Trams, the Driver Innovation Safety Challenge (DISC) invites applicants to come up with a a way of monitoring and analysing driver biometrics so that any loss of consciousness can be picked up immediately and appropriate interventions made by the tram control centre.

The Council is the first UK Local Authority to use the Innovation Procurement Partnership process.

The project follows the fatal derailment of a tram in Croydon in 2016. An official report into the incident by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch identified the mostly likely reason for the driver not applying the brakes was "a temporary loss of awareness of the driving task....which possibly caused him to micro-sleep".

The Council and Edinburgh Trams work closely to ensure the safety of public transport in the city, and to continue to provide the city with excellent public transport infrastructure. 

In the Driver Innovation Safety Challenge (DISC), applicants will compete for £168,000 in funding for up to two years from Scottish Enterprise's Can Do Innovation Fund. The project is also supported by UK Trams. 

Two information events will be held later this month to launch the DISC challenge, fronted by Transport for Edinburgh Chief Executive George Lowder. 

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, Convener of Finance and Resources, said: "This is a really interesting and valuable project which we hope will lead to an innovation that will help save lives in transport systems all over the world. I'd encourage everyone who's interested in applying to come along to one of the information events and find out all about the DISC challenge."

George Lowder, Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh, said “Following the 2016 fatal accident involving the derailment of a tram at Sandilands Junction, Croydon, Edinburgh Trams has worked closely with UK Tram to identify practical mitigation measures, to help ensure a similar incident is prevented in the future.  A key measure is to develop a device able to inform control centres that a driver is about to become incapacitated due to health or fatigue issues.  Appropriate interventions can then be taken to prevent the driver from putting themselves and their passengers in harm’s way. We look forward to working with the DISC participants to support the development of this new device,  which will eventually have applicability beyond trams, to other modes of public transport and public services, including perhaps plant and machinery operatives.”

Lea Harrison, Managing Director of Edinburgh Trams, said: “The safety of our customers and our colleagues is our number one priority. We’re thrilled to be the first UK transport operator involved in the development of a device that could make our tramway even safer. We’re now very much looking forward to meeting potential applicants at the upcoming DISC events.”

Through the DISC challenge, the Council and Edinburgh Trams will support the development of a device monitoring and analysing various biometrics to:

  • pre-emptively identify the main typologies of illnesses resulting in loss of focus, consciousness or paralysis at the driving controls
  • identify the fatigue levels of a driver which could similarly create conditions for loss of capacity
  • make the tram control team aware in real time of risks to enable the appropriate interventions to be taken, by provision of appropriate alarms (Red, Amber, Green)

DISC offers the opportunity for Scottish and International companies and consortia to propose disruptive safety devices. The challenge will be supported by fatigue measurement and staff awareness and advice training carried out by Edinburgh Trams.

The first DISC launch and information event will be held at Edinburgh's City Chambers on the High Street on Monday 1 October at 1.30pm . The second, also at the City Chambers, will take place at 5.30pm on Monday, 8 October.  

Free places can be booked via Eventbrite:

- 1 October, 1.30pm
- 8 October, 5.30pm

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