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Blueprint for the future

 
The ANITA project aims to automate container handling between truck and rail, thus making it more efficient. At the end of May, the mid-term review took place on the MAN test track.

The heavens have opened above Munich. Large puddles are forming on the MAN test track, reflecting the dark clouds. Not ideal conditions for Bertha, the appealing green test truck that is about to demonstrate how it drives autonomously over the track. Now the technology has to prove itself under difficult conditions: the sensors on the driver’s cab not only have to identify obstacles scattered along the route – they also have to recognise and ignore reflections on the wet road.

Then it’s off. Bertha feels her way across the tarmac of the test track, passes the obstacles, and after a few minutes of driving, the truck literally glides to its destination. The safety driver in the cab did not have to intervene once. In view of the flawlessly functioning technology, you can’t help but wonder whether a human can brake just as smoothly.

This first public drive of the autonomous truck is part of the mid-term review of the ANITA (“Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations”) automation project, in which Deutsche Bahn, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and Götting KG are involved alongside MAN Truck & Bus. Since July 2020, the partners have been working on the pilot project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (duration: 39 months) to automate container handling between truck and rail – and now also to take the next step towards automated hub-to-hub transport. 

Prof. Dr. Christian T. Haas, Dr. Sigrid Nikutta and Dr. Frederik Zohm stand in front of a green MAN truck.
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ANITA project partners: Prof. Dr Christian T. Haas (Hochschule Fresenius), Dr Sigrid Nikutta (Member of the Executive Board for Freight Transport at Deutsche Bahn AG and Chair of the Executive Board of DB Cargo AG) and Dr Frederik Zohm (Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus) at the mid-term review. 

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Technical discussions, interviews, press talks, workshops, and test drives: The mid-term review of the ANITA automation project at the MAN test track was a complete success.

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The Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection is funding ANITA with this sum from the “New Vehicle and System Technologies” programme.


 

Sensory organs for trucks 

“The truck must be given eyes and ears. The basic automation technology for ANITA is ready. For fine-tuning, we are now going into direct comparison in practice to further develop the system,” said Dr Frederik Zohm, Executive Board Member for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus, at the mid-term review in Munich. From the end of the decade, autonomous trucks are to go into series production for appropriately equipped container handling sites. “With the help of the legislation on autonomous driving recently passed by the Bundesrat, Germany can be a pioneer in this field,” believes Zohm. 

But first, the ANITA project is entering its second half. The test trucks, which the engineers have christened Anton, Bertha and Newton, will in future be further “trained” at the DUSS terminal and the DBIS depot in Ulm. The test runs are to last one year in order to gather further data and experience and to gradually develop the autonomous prototype. The knowledge gained in this way will then be implemented step by step via software updates. The goal is for the technology to be able to replace human perceptions and actions in the future. 

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ANITA – so funktioniert's

Automation in “Terminal 4.0” 

“Rail and road combined – that is the environmentally friendly solution for the logistics of the future. We are working together here to grow intermodal transport. Digitalisation and automation help us to build interfaces with freight trains and to make the processes in the terminals simple and fast,” says Dr Sigrid Nikutta, Member of the Management Board of Deutsche Bahn AG responsible for Freight Transport and Chair of the Management Board of DB Cargo AG. 

At the presentation, she also takes a look at Terminal 4.0 and its potential and expects great time savings through digitalisation, especially in reloading from road to rail, as well as from rail to road. Whereas goods trains still have to be uncoupled manually and the wagons distributed individually and in analogue form, this will be automated and remote-controlled in Terminal 4.0. 

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is the duration of the ANITA project. 


 

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are involved in the ANITA project: MAN, Deutsche Bahn AG, Götting KG and Hochschule Fresenius. 


 

Communication between systems 

As in life, the same applies to autonomous driving: nothing works without communication. In order for the autonomous truck to fulfil its transport task in container handling, it must be able to communicate with the DBIS depot and DUSS terminal infrastructure. To achieve this, the scientists at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences analysed the existing processes, procedures and behaviours of people and machines on site in the first phase of the project and transferred them into a set of digital rules. 

The Contract Specification Language (CSL) from Deon Digital serves as a common language for the clear and complete communication of all systems involved. The result is a complete mission planning system that links both the vehicle and the IT systems of DBIS Depot and DUSS Terminal. 

Mission: container handling 

“We are pleased to see how our preliminary work can be successfully used in conjunction with the truck as the ANITA project progresses,” says Prof. Dr Christian T. Haas from Fresenius University of Applied Sciences. In the coming practice journeys, the scientists’ mission planning transmits its orders to the automated truck and monitors it through the container handling process.

The goal is to eventually bring the truck into the mixed traffic between the logistics hubs, where it encounters people, cyclists or cars. To better map this complexity, Christian Haas’s team is also working with digital twins. This makes it possible to simulate a variety of traffic situations so that the truck can learn to react safely. A heavy downpour is certainly one of them.

Further information on ANITA: http://www.anita.digital/en 

Text   Anke Kotte
Photos   MAN

#Automation#AutonomousDriving#Logistics
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