In Focus

Networking for the future of road transport

Pushing the button: Prof. Dr. Christian Haas, Director of the Institute for Complex Health Research, Hochschule Fresenius, Joachim Drees, Chairman of the Executive Board MAN Truck & Bus AG, Andreas Scheuer, Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Alexander Doll, Board Member for Freight Transport and Logistics at Deutsche Bahn AG and Prof. Dr. Sabina Jeschke, Board Member for Digitalization and Technology Deutsche Bahn AG (from left to right)

Videos: DB Schenker; Photos: DB Schenker, Axel Novak 


The 145 kilometers of autobahn linking Munich and Nuremberg have become the setting for one of DB Schenker’s largest projects of the future. This is where the logistics service provider, together with its cooperation partners, the manufacturer MAN and the University of Applied Sciences Hochschule Fresenius, has sent the first trucks on the road in test runs between the two major cities. To be more precise, the trials involving these networked trucks are being carried out along a route linking two DB Schenker branch offices. The trucks, which will be laden with general cargo, will make up to three trips a day. These trial runs, which are unprecedented on a global scale, will take place under realistic logistic conditions and will provide the partners with detailed insight into a technology that is considered to be an important milestone on the way towards autonomous driving.

 

According to Germany’s Federal Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer, this “visionary research project” offers numerous opportunities for road haulage. “Logistics processes – from the ramp to the customer – can become safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. And truck drivers can become modern logistics specialists in digital trucks,” he explained. The federal government is funding the pilot project to the tune of around two million euros. The use of this truck platoon is setting “new standards in the logistics market, from which our customers will benefit first and foremost,” said Alexander Doll, Board Member for Freight Transport and Logistics at Deutsche Bahn AG.

Prof. Dr. Sabina Jeschke, DB Board Member for Digitalization and Technology, added: With the platooning project, we are further expanding our pioneering role in the field of autonomous and networked driving.”

 

In the case of MAN, the project’s key objective is to integrate platooning technology effectively into the entire logistics chain. The team of reasearchers from Hochschule Fresenius, which is accompanying the trial and evaluating the results, is primarily focusing on the issue of how platooning  will affect the drivers.


“It’s great to be part of this project,” said Andy Kipping, one of around ten test drivers (shown above in one of the slide show pictures). ”I have every confidence in the technology, and I anticipate that this will reduce the burden on the driver of the second truck, particularly on nighttime trips.” During many of the trial runs, Kipping and his colleagues wear electrode caps and eye-tracking glasses. The researchers use these devices to record the drivers’ brain activity as well as their stress levels and alertness in specific driving situations.   

 

In platooning, at least two trucks are electronically coupled using technical driving assistance and control systems, enabling them to drive behind one another with a minimal gap. The truck in front sets the speed and direction, and the others follow. This offers major advantages: the technical systems increase safety and reduce the burden on drivers, slipstreaming improves fuel consumption, the small gap ensures better utilization of existing road infrastructure, all of which results in enhanced goods transport efficiency.

Minimal gap: platooning involves two – or more – digitally networked trucks driving behind one another at a distance of between twelve and 15 meters

Video (German only): DB Schenker