An open challenge has been launched to find and fund a solution to detect when a tram driver might be about to lose consciousness.

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

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”.

DISC applicants will compete for £168,000 in funding for up to two years from Scottish Enterprise’s Can Do Innovation Fund.

Two information events are being held in August to launch the challenge, fronted by Transport for Edinburgh CEO George Lowder.


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He 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.”

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

  • pre-emptively identify the main types 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).

Read more: TfL begins process to install automatic braking system on tram network