Friday, June 7, 2019

Semi-Autonomous HGV Truck Platooning Trial for Freight and Logistics Group and Partners Completed  

Vehicle Manufacturer and Scientists Had Federal Aid for Successful Road Haulage Project

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Shipping News Feature GERMANY – Three years ago we witnessed the first serious pan European trial of platooning, the system whereby semi-autonomous trucks travel in convoy, linked telemetrically with the lead, driven vehicle controlling the actions of the linked, driver assisted vehicles following behind, successfully cross western Europe. One year ago freight group DB Schenker, HGV manufacturer MAN Truck & Bus and the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences began their own proposed trials to potentially revolutionise the road haulage industry, and now the conclusions have been published.

The project, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), saw two electronically linked vehicles travel regularly on Autobahn 9 between the Nuremberg and Munich branches of the logistics company over the course of seven months. Having covered some 35,000 test kilometres, the accompanying truck drivers, who drove at a distance apart of only 15 to 21 metres, praised the driving comfort and the general sense of safety.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) contributed funding of around €1.86 million to the research project and minister Andreas Scheuer agreed with the partners that the use of truck platoons could ensure more efficient use of space on motorways, less congestion and increased road safety, concluding:

"The mobility of the future will be automated and networked. Of course, this is also true for logistics. I therefore fully support the industry in bringing technologies such as platooning to market maturity. We want to make the processes even safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly, all along the value chain. The drivers have a key role to play here. In a digital truck they will be modern logistics specialists. This will open up new prospects for the profession."

The field tests also demonstrated that autonomous vehicles use less fuel than those controlled by a driver and Alexander Doll, Member of the Management Board for Finance, Freight Transport and Logistics at Deutsche Bahn AG believes platooning could have a radical effect, saying:

"We have analysed our European transport network and it is safe to say that around 40% of the kilometres travelled could be carried out in platoons. With platooning we can offer even more reliable transport."

The platooning system installed in the MAN trucks operated smoothly 98% of the time. Active interventions by the driver were necessary only once every 2,000 kilometres, which is much less than expected. In addition, the pilot project demonstrated a 3 to 4% reduction in fuel consumption. Joachim Drees, Chairman of the Management Board of MAN Truck & Bus SE, observed:

"We were able to show that platooning has the potential to contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. First and foremost, we are pleased that the system works reliably and can increase safety on the motorway. Accordingly, platooning is an important step for us on the way to automation.”

Scientists from the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences investigated the psychosocial and neurophysiological effects on the drivers. Having experienced the actual field test brought about a significant change in the previously sceptical attitude of the drivers. Professor Sabine Hammer said that the drivers used found a general sense of safety and trust in the technology with none of the specific driving situations which arose described as uncontrollable.

Measurements of the drivers reactions were taken, including electroencephalographs and the scientists concerned recommended further research with extended periods in platooning mode for international transits. Professor Christian Haas, Director of the IKS, said:

"The EEG measurements show no systematic differences between platoon runs and normal runs when it comes to the neurophysiological stress placed on drivers, i.e. in terms of concentration or fatigue."

Commenting on the trial results the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said the benefits of platooning cannot be ignored and projected that platooning could reduce the CO2 emissions of trailing vehicles by up to 16% and of lead convoy vehicles by 8%.

Photo: The participants of the platooning-project presented the research results at the final event at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) in Berlin.

(l to r): Joachim Drees, Alexander Doll, Dr. Tobias Miethaner, Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Andy Kipping, Truck Driver DB Schenker (wearing the test headgear), Prof. Dr. Sabine Hammer and Prof. Dr. Christian Haas.

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