Thursday, February 15, 2018

More Autonomous Truck Platooning Involves Freight and Logistics Trials

Self-Driving HGVs Take Another Step Forward for Pan European Transport
Shipping News Feature
GERMANY – Following on from Pan European trials which saw convoys of semi-autonomous HGVs transiting the continent, MAN Truck & Bus and Hochschule Fresenius have delivered pilot vehicles to DB Schenker as the freight, technology and lorry manufacturing triumvirate collaborate to further test the practical applications of platooning in daily logistics operations. Established in May last year, the joint venture will trial truck convoys over a period of several months as part of DB Schenker's scheduled operations in real traffic scenarios on the A9 freeway between Munich and Nuremberg. Ewald Kaiser, Chief Operating Officer DB Schenker, commented:

"Autonomous and networked driving will fundamentally change road haulage. This project will focus on testing platooning for the first time in daily logistics operations. So we’re excited that we can now integrate the vehicles into the operational test runs.”

Platooning is a road vehicle system in which at least two trucks on the freeway can travel in close succession with the help of technical driving assistance and control systems. All of the vehicles in the platoon are linked to each other by an electronic ‘tow-bar’ that uses truck to truck communication where the lorry in front of the convoy sets the speed and direction of travel. Trials are also ongoing both in the US and elsewhere.

In this context, electronic coupling of the vehicles in the platoon is intended to help guarantee traffic safety. One other objective of the system is to optimise fuel savings for the entire platoon through the benefits of slipstreaming. While recent months have been occupied with producing the test vehicles and equipping them with the additional technical components required for deploying platooning, the focus is now on intensive training of the drivers for their tasks in the project and ultimately on facilitating integration with DB Schenker's logistics operations.

This will also be the first time that professional truck drivers from DB Schenker will replace test drivers at the wheel. Their experiences, assessments and evaluations of platooning are the focal point of the work at Hochschule Fresenius, which is providing the scientific support for the test drives as the third partner of the cooperative venture. Dr. Frederik Zohm, Member of the Board of Management for Research and Development MAN Truck & Bus AG, said:

"We have already proved that platooning technology works in various predecessor projects, such as the European Truck Platooning Challenge in 2016. Adapting this technology to the real every day conditions of the logistics sector is the challenge we are now tackling.”

As of April, individual runs of the platoon are planned on the A9. To begin with, the trucks will be operating without any cargo to investigate driving conditions in the daily flow of traffic, and to train the drivers involved in the project in operating the vehicles. The drivers will receive intensive theoretical and practical training from the specialists at MAN ProfiDrive and will practice on a driving simulator. Hochschule Fresenius staff will be accompanying the drivers and documenting their experiences.

Once the intensive training phase has been completed, there will be weekly, and then daily test runs. These will be extended to include regular operations with actual cargo during the course of 2018. The platoons will then be deployed up to three times daily between DB Schenker logistics centres in Munich and Nuremberg. Prof Dr. Christian T. Haas, Head of the Institute for Complex Health Research at Hochschule Fresenius

"We want to find out what impact the new technology has on the drivers. The study focuses on the neurophysiological and psychosocial levels. The results of the study at the human-machine interface will be fed back directly into developing the technology. The scenario also offers the opportunity to make general findings in terms of digitalising working conditions and would thus serve as a forerunner for other projects.”