Aiming to see if trucks digitally connected on the highway as platoons are ready to roll in the real world, German OEM MAN Truck & Bus AG, a unit of Volkswagen Truck & Bus GmbH, has placed a number of units with a customer for months of evaluation in revenue service.
The trucks were turned over to Hamburg-based global logistics giant DB Schenker on Feb. 13. Munich’s renowned Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Science will provide scientific support for the pilot program. Drivers will first receive specialized training, included with simulators, before hitting the roasd beginning in April.
The truck convoys will be evaluated over a period of several months as part of DB Schenker's scheduled operations in actual traffic on the A9 freeway that runs between Munich and Nuremberg.
Man noted that the testing will mark “the first time that professional truck drivers from DB Schenker will replace test drivers at the wheel.”
The drivers’ experiences, assessments and evaluations of platooning will feed a study that Hochschule Fresenius is conducting. "We want to find out what impact the new technology has on the drivers,” said Prof. Dr. Christian T. Haas, Head of the Institute for Complex Health Research at Hochschule Fresenius. “The study focuses on the neurophysiological and psychosocial levels. He added that results regarding the human-machine interface will be “fed back directly into developing the technology."
Before hitting the roads within a platoon, which is slated to begin in April, DB Schenker drivers will receive specialized training, included with simulators. Once the 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 over the rest of 2018. The platoons will be deployed up to three times daily between DB Schenker’s logistics centers in Munich and Nuremberg.
"Autonomous and networked driving will fundamentally change road haulage,” said DB Schenker COO Ewald Kaiser. “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."
Member of the Management Board for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus AG Frederik Zohm pointed out that the truck maker has “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.”