Joint project VERA

  Interior view of an inland waterway vessel simulator Copyright: © VeLABi

Data Base, Infrastructure, and Technologies for Virtual Testing of Automation Functions


Key Info

Basic Information

17.11.2022 to 17.02.2025


Inland navigation plays an important role in transporting cargo and goods in Germany and Europe, offering the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the transport sector due to a lower energy demand compared with road freight transport. At the same time, partially or even fully automated inland vessels can improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of traffic on waterways. Developing the necessary technologies, however, requires an appropriate research infrastructure, which allows for testing under realistic conditions. Virtual proving grounds open a chance to close the gap between laboratory and full-scale tests and simulate high-risk scenarios. In the context of the therefore released second funding guideline for research and development of digital proving grounds at federal waterways, short DTW II, by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport of Germany, called BMDV, project VERA has been initiated.


Project Goals and Methods

The goal of VERA is to set up a virtual proving ground, which enables the development and testing of control assistance systems and automation functions for inland vessels. For this purpose, the Test and Management Centre for Autonomous Inland Waterway Vessels (VeLABi), operated by the Development Centre for Ship Technology and Transport Systems (DST) and the Chair of Mechatronics of the University Duisburg-Essen (IMECH), serves as a basis. Within this project, VeLABi is to be extended modularly, so it is adaptable to a wide range of requirements. One of the main work packages under the responsibility of the Institute of Automatic Control (IRT) of RWTH Aachen University is setting up a control station at the institute, which is suited for stand-alone operation as well as being linked with other simulators for simulating cooperative scenarios. This includes establishing the necessary hard- and software, and interfaces to connect automation systems. Another focus is the realistic emulation of sensor data for perception and navigation, for example camera, LiDAR, Radar, GNSS, IMU, including uncertainties, sensor malfunctions, and disturbances or anomalies. Beyond the highest possible realism, another main requirement concerning the virtual sensors are adjustability and reproducibility, since this lies the foundation of future testing of navigation and automation systems.


Innovations and Perspectives

Sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport Affairs

Thanks to its modular architecture and open interfaces, the virtual proving ground established in this project will be a valuable tool for future users from research and industry for investigating a wide range of research questions in the field of automated inland navigation in an efficient and risk-free manner. The new control station at IRT, for example, will enable a significantly earlier and simplified evaluation of new navigation and automation systems under realistic conditions, thus laying the foundation for future research in this area. Particularly, systems with a high degree of automation and corresponding high safety, reliability and integrity requirements will benefit from the realistic emulation of sensor data in the planned combined and compact way with regard to early, exhaustive tests.

Project Partner Associated Partner