MAN Truck & Bus


Driverless in the port:
two autonomous trucks on the home straight


The pilot “Hamburg TruckPilot” project is coming to a close. The final test phase involving two autonomously driving MAN trucks in service at Am Ballinkai in the Port of Hamburg is due to be launched in May. An update from Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA).

Ein autonom fahrender Lkw von MAN im Container Terminal Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA)
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A novelty at the port The truck moves completely independently on the CTA site - an important development step toward automated driving.

Three years ago, MAN and Hamburg Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) decided to jointly implement the “Hamburg TruckPilot” project, which aims to test the autonomous driving of trucks at Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA) and the integration of these trucks into automated container handling. The project is part of a mobility partnership between Volkswagen AG and the Free Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

“Automated hub-to-hub traffic, driverless from start to finish. This may sound like the distant future, but it’s what MAN and Hamburg Hafen und Logistik AG have been jointly researching and testing in the “Hamburg TruckPilot” for the last three years”, explains Andreas Tostmann, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus SE. “Container Terminal Altenwerder has been the venue for testing how autonomously driving MAN trucks can be integrated into automated container handling.”

A lot has happened since the start in 2018 – and the outcome is within reach. The preparatory phase was completed some time ago. The project managers have already also placed a tick against technical development of the system at the MAN test site in Munich. Technical implementation at the CTA site by the 1,400-metre-long Ballinkai quay with four berths has been under way since September 2020.

The corona crisis did of course also put “Hamburg TruckPilot” on hold for a while, but the plan is for test runs to finally commence in May 2021. This will involve two prototype trucks equipped with automation technology autonomously handling the unloading and loading processes – including travelling to and from the loading points within the CTA site.

This is how MAN and HHLA envisage the automated process

Quieter and safer

A trained MAN safety driver will always be present in the vehicle during this phase to monitor the automation systems. This driver can if necessary intervene and assume the driving duties. The logistics partner for these test operations is Spedition Jakob Weets from Emden. It is providing the real container loads to be handled in the course of trial operation. An additional safety feature is that external displays on the front and sides of the vehicle provide an indication of the actions the truck is currently performing to personnel and other road users on the CTA site. Insofar as the legal framework permits, the driver should eventually be able to leave the truck during the automated loading and unloading processes.

Automation expert and project manager Sebastian Völl is very pleased with what has been achieved so far: “The ‘Hamburg TruckPilot’ project is another significant step in MAN’s development of automated driving. As with other projects, the focus here too is on integrating the system into concrete workflows at a future user’s site. We will collaborate with HHLA to generate important findings and further develop the technology into a customer-ready system.”    

The gradual unburdening of the driver, who can thus find time for other tasks or even take legally prescribed rest breaks, is just one of the benefits that MAN and HHLA expect to gain from “Hamburg TruckPilot”. Automated journeys moreover increase road safety on company premises and generally relieve the traffic flow. Freight forwarders can also register an increase in efficiency, because automated driving is anticipatory and consequently more fuel-efficient.

Transport of the future

“VW boss Herbert Diess, VW Truck & Bus CEO Gunnar Kilian and I had the pleasure end of march of joining HHLA managing directors Angela Titzrath and Oliver Dux for a live experience of automated driving”, relates Tostmann. “For the first time, one of the two prototypes independently manoeuvred to the container storage area and reversed precisely into the correct position for the container to be unloaded. Our next step will be at the end of October when we will finally present the project at the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems.”

The ,Hamburg TruckPilot' project is another important development step for MAN in automated driving.

Sebastian Völl
Automation expert and project manager

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