Mobility 4.0: Self-driving vehicles, truck convoys on motorways with drivers not having to touch the steering wheel, fully automated container handling – all pure dreams of the future? By no means! Automated driving offers a lot of potential in terms of efficiency and safety, especially in the transport industry. Even today, as MAN has already proven in numerous pilot projects. But the way to the fully autonomous vehicle is also paved with challenges to be mastered. An overview.
The two research and development projects ANITA and ATLAS-L4 were honoured by a jury of 25 trade journalists with the prestigious "Truck of the Year" future prize from the international jury. MAN played a major role in both projects - with the aim of optimising transport processes through automation and making them safer.
As part of ATLAS-L4, autonomous lorries are being tested in hub-to-hub traffic. The aim is to reduce fatigue accidents, alleviate driver shortages and optimise transport processes. The aim of ANITA is to integrate autonomous lorries into logistics hubs. As part of the project, MAN developed a self-driving truck that autonomously handles container loading from road to rail with the help of digital mission planning. "The MAN projects prove that autonomous trucks can make logistics safer and more efficient," said the jury. Further information can be found here.
There are many reasons in favour of automating buses: In urban transport in particular, this opens up great potential in terms of efficiency and safety. But the costs for fleet operators should also fall, for example due to the lower labour costs. In the long term, automated buses can also help to counter the increasing shortage of drivers.
As part of the MINGA research project ("Munich's automated local transport with ridepooling, solo bus and bus platoons"), MAN and Stadtwerke München will test an automated and fully electric MAN Lion's City E on a route that runs through the Olympic Park and is used in particular by tourists, people seeking recreation and people in their free time. The pilot operation of the automated city bus is scheduled to start in 2025.
The eBus is equipped with an intelligent Automated Driving System (ADS) from Mobileye, which utilises highly developed sensor technology. However, a safety driver will always be on board during all tests.
Further information can be found here.
What advantages does the autonomous vehicle offer and what technology is generally used? The most important questions and answers on a complex topic.
The targeted and automated operation of a vehicle in real traffic, achieved by combining different systems that partially or fully take over steering, acceleration and braking, using on-board sensors and data to capture the vehicle’s environment.
The intercommunication between vehicles (car-to-car) and with the infrastructure, such as traffic lights or traffic guidance systems (car-to-infrastructure).
Increased road safety: Car-to-X communication warns drivers of hazards in good time; automated driving also means that a vehicle can brake or change lanes on its own. In addition to safety, automation can contribute to greater efficiency and resource conservation.
To classify the degree of automation, six levels from 0 to 5 have been defined on a national and international basis. The classification describes the system tasks as well as the driver requirements from merely assisted driving to fully autonomous driving without the need of a human driver to operate the vehicle.
Assisted and partially automated driving (levels 1 and 2) are in line with German road traffic regulations and international standards that require a driver to be able to control or drive the vehicle. This is not the case with highly automated driving (level 3), where drivers can turn their attention to things other than driving while on the road. However, legislative changes on a national and international basis in 2016 and 2017 significantly extended the scope for automated driving. Whether the new regulation only creates legal certainty for stage 3 or also for stage 4 (highly automated driving) is currently under discussion. However, one thing is certain: Autonomous driving (level 5) is not yet covered.
Promotion of autonomous and connected driving
The German government has set itself the goal of supporting the transformation of the automotive sector in order to achieve the climate targets in the transport sector. In addition, jobs and added value are to be preserved in Germany.
The aim is to make Germany a centre of innovation for autonomous driving. The new "Autonomous and connected driving in public transport" funding guideline supports application-oriented research projects in the field of autonomous and connected driving in road transport.
MAN Truck & Bus is promoting transport automation step by step – not via theoretical concept papers, but in practical projects in real operating conditions. And always based on specific customer applications that contribute true added value. An overview of already completed and ongoing automation projects made by MAN:
MAN is pushing ahead with the use of automated city buses, as this results in TCO savings and can alleviate the shortage of drivers. As part of the MINGA research project ("Munich's automated local transport with ridepooling, solo bus and bus platoons"), the company will be testing an electric bus with automation in real-life operation in Munich. The all-electric MAN Lion's City E is to be used on bus route 144 through the Olympic Park, which is characterised by tourism and leisure. The pilot operation of this first automated city bus from MAN, accompanied by a safety driver, is planned from 2025.
The ATLAS-L4 (Automated Transport between Logistics Centres on Level 4 Expressways) research and development project aims to demonstrate that the use of Level 4 automated and driverless vehicles on motorways is feasible. It thus directly addresses the new opportunities arising from the law on autonomous driving passed in 2021, with which Germany is taking a pioneering position globally. By the middle of the decade, the project partners want to present a concept for the operation of automated trucks on the motorway that can be transferred to industrialisation.
The ANITA ("Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations") project has achieved ground-breaking research results for the use of autonomous trucks in container logistics. MAN and its project partners were able to show how self-driving trucks with the right integration into the infrastructure can make combined road and rail freight transport more efficient, predictable and flexible in the future. To this end, an autonomously driving lorry was put on its wheels, which can handle container loads from road to rail independently with the help of digital mission planning. Test drives show a potential efficiency gain of up to 40 per cent and increased process stability. ANITA has thus provided transferable findings for the future integration of autonomous lorries into the processes of logistics hubs and driverless lorry transport between logistics hubs.
Together with seven partners from industry, research and administration, MAN developed and tested the prototype of a safety vehicle in the aFAS research project ("automatic driverless safety vehicle for work sites on federal motorways"): a MAN TGM 18.340 with cameras, radars, various assistance systems, in some cases specially developed environmental sensors and integrated object and lane detection followed mobile construction sites on the hard shoulder of motorways in Hesse in a driverless and fully automated manner at a defined distance.
For three years, MAN Truck & Bus and Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) pushed ahead with the "Hamburg TruckPilot" research and testing project to develop automation solutions. Two prototype trucks equipped with corresponding electronic automation systems moved automatically within the Container Terminal Altenwerder at the Port of Hamburg (CTA) between the check-in gate and container block storage.
The EDDI ("Electronic Drawbar - Digital Innovation") project was a world premiere: for five months, professional drivers first drove dummy weights and then real goods on two MAN TGX articulated lorries at a maximum speed of 80 kilometres per hour between DB Schenker terminals in Munich and Nuremberg on a digital test route on the A9 motorway that was around 145 kilometres long. The rear vehicle followed the acceleration, braking and steering of the lead vehicle - synchronously, without active intervention by the driver and at a distance of around 15 metres. This is possible thanks to a special WLAN connection for car-to-car communication and multiple redundant sensors as well as various assistance systems. In certain situations, such as at motorway junctions, the platoon was broken up.
In the ENSEMBLE (ENabling SafE Multi-Brand pLatooning for Europe) project, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology ensures that different vehicles can communicate with each other and thus drive in a platoon, for example. Previously, this only worked between vehicles of one brand. As part of the EU-funded Ensemble project, seven European truck manufacturers have developed a cross-brand V2V communication protocol together with various suppliers and partners. The first platoon of vehicles from different brands drove around Barcelona in September 2021. In the medium term, an EU standard is to be developed on this basis.
Assisted, partially automated, conditionally automated, highly automated, fully automated: These are the five steps on the way to the autonomous vehicle. And that is what they mean.
There are no automated driving functions; the driver performs all driving functions himself, i.e. the longitudinal control of the vehicle (maintaining speed, accelerating and braking) and the lateral control (steering). There are no systems that intervene, only supporting systems.
Most modern vehicles, including MAN products, already offer a wide range of systems that actively support the driver, for example in keeping the lane or maintaining distance and speed. However, the driver retains full and active responsibility for the driving task at all times.
Various Level 1 systems such as lane guard and adaptive cruise control are combined to create partially automated driving functions. Under defined conditions, the vehicle keeps its lane, brakes and accelerates automatically. An example of this is the traffic jam assist of the new MAN Truck generation, which moves the vehicle in congested situations on motorways independently up to a speed of 60 km/h in relation to the vehicle in front – according to the given traffic conditions. However, the driver still retains full responsibility for the driving task and for road safety. He must continuously monitor the vehicle systems and intervene at any time should the situation require it.
Drivers no longer have to continuously monitor the longitudinal and lateral control of the vehicle. However, they must be able to resume the driving task when the system signals them to do so. The system independently recognises its limits, that is the point at which its functions can no longer cope with the environmental conditions. In this case, the vehicle requests the driver to resume the task of driving.
On predefined road sections such as a motorway or closed terrain, the vehicle drives completely autonomously. There is no need for the driver to continuously monitor the system and he can assume other tasks while driving or even leave the vehicle – for example, when handling containers on a terminal site. On appropriately closed and secured terrain, the legal framework conditions already offer the possibility of driving without the need of a driver. From level 4 and higher, however, there must be an “off-board” control level that monitors and controls deployment and driving task of the level 4 vehicle.
The vehicle is fully capable of performing the driving task completely independently on all road types, in all speed ranges and under all environmental conditions. Except for setting the destination and starting the system, human intervention is no longer necessary. In contrast to Level 4, Level 5 requires further comprehensive technical development of the systems and in addition extensive legal frameworks and supporting systems for the transport infrastructure.
Already prepared for tomorrow: MAN is advancing automation – not just for the sake of it, but rather in projects that have a specific customer requirement as their starting point.
So MAN is already equipped for the mobility of the future. We will be able to offer exactly the services that the market demands once the technology has reached readiness for series production. A manufacturer’s involvement in innovative projects such as this also demonstrates that he is meeting his responsibility to assure the safety of the entire system.
MAN is focusing on three major steps:
MAN will only test the hub-to-hub applications on the roads when the safety of the technology has been reliably proven in the first two steps and once the regulatory approval procedures have been clarified. As to the final step towards autonomous driving becoming a reality, there is still a need for a legal framework and for clarification of legal requirements.
MAN also sees great potential in passenger transport through automation. These activities are currently taking centre stage:
The digital future of logistics is coming into view. Terminal 4.0 is already a reality, and in the near future driverless commercial vehicles will open up the path to Logistics 4.0. The hub-to-hub transport, as it is called, enables the autonomous transport of goods on federal motorways and national roads, between important logistics hubs. More information in the video on the MAN vision.