DB Schenker and MAN are to test networked truck convoys on the A9 Motorway between Munich and Nuremberg next year.

Both companies have signed an MoU and are initially planning to define fundamental conditions for the project and subsequent practical trials. In 2018, they envisage operating a truck platoon on the Digital Motorway Testbed on the A9 motorway between DB Schenker branches in Munich and Nuremberg.

The second phase will involve deployment of self-driving trucks on the DB Schenker grounds in Nuremberg.

All vehicles in the platoon are linked up to each other by means of electronic ‘drawbars’ in the form of car-to-car communication. The leading vehicle determines speed and direction.

The distance between individual trucks is around 10m, equivalent to roughly half a second driving time. The electronic links between individual vehicles in the platoon guarantee safety of operations.

The primary objective of the procedure is to enable slipstreaming and thus achieve fuel savings of up to 10% for the entire platoon.

“Our target is to become the driver of digital business models in the transport and logistics industry and to be the provider of choice for customers seeking both digital and non-digital services,” said DB Schenker chairman, Jochen Thewes.

“We welcome this opportunity to cooperate with MAN and test platooning at an early stage in day-to-day operations between land transport terminals. DB Schenker and MAN expect this partnership to generate new findings for optimising logistics processes.”

For his part, MAN SE and MAN Truck & Bus chairman, Joachim Drees added: “Platooning is a real benefit to transport safety. Human error is unfortunately one of the most frequent causes of rear-end collisions. Linking trucks together electronically provides us with a promising approach to this problem.

“Slipstreaming brings a major reduction in fuel consumption in the process. At the same time, platooning will enable us to make much more efficient use of transport infrastructure.”

He also underlined, however, important pre-conditions for making platooning a standard procedure have yet to be created.

“Whether the concept can be realised on a wide scale will depend to a large extent on the legal framework,” he noted. “MAN will offer such a system once the legal setting for it has been created.”

In the first phase of the project, DB Schenker and MAN Truck & Bus will clarify the fundamental issues for trial operations, identify suitable scenarios for testing platooning operations and define technical and logistical requirements for compilation of platoons.

Another project area will deal with the collection and provision of necessary information and use of that information by the truck manufacturer and logistics specialist.

The partners will also look at the scope for combining platooning with other digital services as well as questions of costs and savings potential.

The project will additionally investigate requirements platooning drivers have to satisfy as well as the general impact of the new technology on the truck as a workplace, now and in future.

“Many of these things are still a long way off into the future, but we wish to test and help to shape this future and to provide inspiration and incentive,” added Thewes.

“We want to integrate networked, self-driving trucks into our logistics processes and find out what benefits, apart from the savings in fuel consumption, can be achieved for our customers and operational processes.”