MAN Truck & Bus is involved in a project with autonomous trucks at intermodal terminals together with several partners. The aim is to optimize systems and software so that the operation can be carried out reliably.
MAN Truck & Bus, Deutsche Bahn, the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and Götting KG are participating in a joint autonomization project ANITA – Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations. The aim is to evaluate the practical functioning of an autonomous driving system with MAN test trucks at intermodal terminals.
The project is taking place at DB Intermodal Services’ container warehouse and DUSS terminal (Deutsche Umschlaggesellschaft Schiene-Straße) in Ulm Dornstadt. ANITA’s objective is to use autonomous trucks to stabilize the processes involved in transferring containers from road to rail, making them more efficient, easier to plan and, at the same time, more flexible. This will allow more goods to be transported more sustainably.
To this end, MAN will be perfecting the electronic functions of the autonomous truck, in a real operating environment context, over the next few months, so that it can analyze the environment, react, and plan like a real driver.
“The basic automation technology for ANITA is ready. For its improvement, we will now start testing it in practice to further develop the system with a view to operational reliability and added value for the future user”, says Frederik Zohm, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus.
one year of testing
The test program will last for one year to verify that the autonomous truck actually works as it was supposed to. The results will allow the introduction of new developments and the optimization of procedures.
For safety reasons, a driver will always be on board to intervene if necessary. The intensive tests benefit not only the future development of the autonomous truck, but also the preparation of the terminals for the integration of new technology.
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“Combined rail and road – this is the environmentally friendly solution for the logistics of the future. We are working together to grow this intermodal transport”, says Sigrid Nikutta, Member of the Board of Directors of Deutsche Bahn, responsible for Freight Transport and CEO of DB Cargo AG.
“Digitization and automation help us to make freight train interfaces, terminal processes simple and fast,” adds Sigrid Nikutta.
New communication language
In order for the autonomous truck to carry out its task of transporting and handling containers, it must be able to communicate with the infrastructure of the DBIS depot and the DUSS terminal.
To this end, scientists from the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences analyzed the existing processes, procedures and behaviors of people and machines on site in the first phase of the project and transferred them to a set of digital rules.
Deon Digital’s Contract Specification Language (CSL) serves as a common language for clear and complete communication of all systems involved. The result is a complete mission planning system that links both the vehicle and the DBIS Depot and DUSS Terminal computer systems.
Specifically, this means major software development: during test drives, MAN will analyze the vehicle’s behavior. These findings will then be implemented step by step through software updates. The autonomous system must be able to cover all the decisions that a driver makes today based on his sensory impressions – this means nothing less than replacing human perceptions and actions.