On the double: as of next spring, a dual platoon of MAN trucks bearing the DB Schenker logo will be operating on the autobahn. The aim of the pilot scheme is to gather as much information as possible to make use of the data when deploying truck platoons in the future
DB Schenker, in cooperation with MAN, will soon be deploying digitally networked and largely self-driving trucks for regular logistics operations on the German autobahn. Both partners recently signed a cooperation contract to this effect at the “transport logistic” trade fair under the banner of “Platooning” and announced the latest details on the various phases of this project.
For this purpose, two-truck platoons will be traveling between DB Schenker’s logistics facilities in Munich and Nuremberg as of spring 2018. An “electronic drawbar,” which enables car-to-car communication, connects the trucks, allowing them to drive behind each other safely at a distance of only ten meters. The parties concerned intend to employ platooning on a grand scale in the logistics of the future. The idea behind this project is to reduce fuel consumption and the attendant CO2 emissions of the entire platoon to a significant extent by taking advantage of the benefits of slipstreaming.
As part of the pilot scheme, the trucks will not be operated by test drivers but instead by “normal” truckers. During the first tours, which will be conducted on a weekly basis without cargo, these drivers will be trained to operate the trucks and deal with the specific skills involved in platooning. Following this initial phase, there will be daily trips before the trucks are then deployed on the autobahn on scheduled services, which will be determined by the requirements of the overall transport volume, meaning up to three times a day.
These trips will be analyzed extensively, for example, in order to determine the specific scenarios in which it makes sense to form a platoon; or how a convoy of trucks is best assembled or disbanded in concrete situations depending on traffic conditions. Another issue under investigation will be the data that needs to be transmitted to the manufacturer and the logistics provider so as to ensure an optimal monitoring of the platoon.
“Networked and automated driving will revolutionize transport of the future,” said Ewald Kaiser, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of DB Schenker at the “transport logistic” trade fair. By signing this cooperation agreement, DB Schenker was underlining its claim as the “driver of digital business models for the benefit of our customers. Platooning provides us and our customers with a solution to the need for completely transparent as well as faster and more eco-friendly processes.”