MAN Truck & Bus

People stand in front of a MAN truck at the ITS World Congress 2021People stand in front of a MAN truck at the ITS World Congress 2021

ITS World Congress: vehicles for the transport of tomorrow


400 international exhibitors – including MAN with Hamburg TruckPilot – attended the ITS World Congress 2021 in Hamburg and presented innovative technologies relating to the imminent future of transport, logistics and mobility. Automation, digitisation and electric mobility are the three main drivers in making the transport business safer, more efficient and more eco-friendly. A tour of the ITS (Part 1) mainly revolves around innovative commercial vehicles: from an autonomous truck to an automated transport drone.

 Die HHLA-Vorstandsvorsitzende Angela Titzrath berichtete Journalisten und Fachbesuchern von dem Pilotprojekt mit MAN und der Spedition Weets.
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Hamburg TruckPilot HHLA CEO Angela Titzrath told journalists and trade visitors about the pilot project with MAN and Spedition Weets.

Hamburg, where the ITS World Congress was held in October 2021, is the location for one of the globally most important sea ports handling international freight transport. It is also home to the world’s first climate-neutral container terminal: Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA). This highly modern facility is operated by Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and is already fully automated on the seaward side. MAN Truck & Bus, the Spedition Weets and HHLA have jointly tested how autonomously driving trucks can be efficiently and safely integrated into terminal procedures. The results of the successful Hamburg TruckPilot pilot project attracted considerable attention at the ITS.

Circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic didn’t detract from this industry gathering. It welcomed 400 international exhibitors and 13,000 trade visitors, making it more extensive and well attended than ever before. This attendance record clearly demonstrates the massive interest in and need for future-oriented “Intelligent Transport Systems” – the full version of the abbreviation ITS. Just like MAN, the entire logistics sector is working on new and pioneering transport solutions. These are intended to help manage the ever increasing freight volume and simultaneously to minimise the climate-damaging emissions arising from transportation to the point of climate-neutrality. The congress focused particularly on commercial vehicles involving innovative technologies and new applications in the context of automation, digitisation and electric mobility.

Hamburg TruckPilot as a milestone

HHLA CEO Angela Titzrath and MAN Truck & Bus Senior Vice President, Head of Automation Mikael Edstam, held a joint press conference at the ITS in which they emphasised the great need for the use of automated trucks in the future. “Autonomous driving is on its way! We at HHLA are already preparing for it. Logistics 4.0 offers opportunities on a global scale. To really benefit from them, we have to be open to change and show courage in dealing with the transformation. Autonomous driving and Hamburg TruckPilot are a great example of transformative processes that we are actively seeking to shape", Angela Titzrath said. Mikael Edstam made it clear from a MAN perspective why this pilot project in the port terminal was an important milestone for autonomous driving in general. “We’ve collated significant data and findings that can also be used to realise automated hub-to-hub traffic between logistics terminals. Over the next few years, MAN intends to continue testing these applications in order to be able to realise a series offer for autonomous trucks in the second half of this decade." Just how innovative and diverse the world of freight and passenger transport could look in the future was also demonstrated by numerous other projects and ideas on display at the ITS World Congress.

Maglev containers

Container Terminal Altenwerder already combines sea routes, road and rail. Hyperloop is another transport mode that HHLA is now introducing. It is working with USA company HyperloopTT on conveying containers through a tube using magnetic levitation and linear propulsion. Their joint venture HyperPort Cargo Solutions (HCS) is jointly developing the technological components for this. A virtual demonstrator showing container handling in the HyperPort was presented at the ITS in Hamburg. The ultimate aim is to market the system for global logistics. Hyperloops enable high throughput, are low-emission, very energy efficient and at the same time very safe, because external influences are eliminated in the tube. These advantages mean that a Hyperloop transport system could make a valuable contribution to relieving traffic infrastructure.

The fully automated Transport System Bögl (TSB) takes a similar approach. This in-house development by the Max Bögl Group also utilises maglev technology. The TSB Cargo System conveys individual containers in a fully-electric and climate-friendly manner and with a very low noise level. Top speed is 150 kilometres per hour and the containers are transported at 20-second intervals. Unlike the Hyperloop, journeys do not occur in a tube, but rather on slender elevated railway lines in the open. Max Bögl has developed its TSB technology to series-production readiness for local passenger transport and uses it on a 860 metre long test track at Sengenthal in Bavaria and on a demonstration track in Chengdu, China. The use of this electromagnetic levitation and propulsion system for container logistics is currently being tested as part of a feasibility study. Possible applications of this technology include the distribution of goods between busy logistical hubs, for instance between port terminals and so-called dry ports in the hinterland.

Ride-sharing in urban traffic

MOIA is also breaking new ground in terms of urban mobility. The Volkswagen Group company is testing a ride-pooling service in Hamburg that is unique in Europe. The idea: a taxi bus pools the requests of several passengers who hop on or off at their individual starting points and destinations. "In this way, we reduce the number of kilometres driven per person, thus relieving road traffic and minimising emissions," Dr. Ralf Sigmund, CTO of MOIA, explained the concept at the congress. The offer is aimed at customers who are willing to accept certain detours in order to reduce their personal CO2 footprint. The challenge: The journeys with MOIA should nevertheless bring the passenger to the destination reliably and on time within a guaranteed time corridor. To achieve this, MOIA is developing and testing an AI algorithm that coordinates passenger requests and route planning.

“Our objective is to offer our customers a travel service that is available within five minutes and betters the efficiency of a private vehicle.”

Dr. Ralf Sigmund

“Our objective is to offer our customers a travel service that is available within five minutes and betters the efficiency of a private vehicle”, Ralf Sigmund explains. The pilot project simultaneously intends to demonstrate that ride-sharing doesn’t cannibalise public transport, but rather augments it. MOIA is currently deploying a fleet of Volkswagen 500 ID. BUZZ electric minivans. The plan is for driverless taxi trips in autonomous vehicles to be tested from 2025. “The greater the availability of vehicles and the customer demand, the more functional the concept becomes. Correspondingly large fleets can only be operated cost-effectively if there are no personnel costs for drivers”, is how the CTO of MOIA describes the future prospects for ride-sharing.  

Automated aviation

Innovative aircraft for logistics and mobility were also a hot topic at the ITS. HHLA presented HHLA Sky, a control centre that enables safe operation of numerous drones beyond the field of vision. It means that companies can operate over 100 drones in parallel to undertake different tasks in a seamlessly coordinated manner. The industrial drones developed in-house by HHLA Sky can in principle assume all conceivable tasks, from civil and industrial security at airports and industrial sites to environmental monitoring and the measurement of plots and buildings. Drones mostly gather specific data or transmit real-time images via high-performance cameras.

German air taxi pioneer Volocopter together with logistics company DB Schenker have demonstrated that drones can also be a locally emission-free solution to short-distance personal air travel. The VoloDrone, an electric heavy-lift drone, successfully made its first public flight at the ITS World Congress. This drone transported a load the size of a Euro pallet during its three-minute test flight and reached a maximum altitude of 22 metres. It can carry freight weighing 200 kilogrammes over a range of 40 kilometres. The autonomous aircraft landed safely and handed over its consignment to a DB Schenker cargo bike for final delivery. Volocopter GmbH is also working on the development of electrically powered drones for passenger transport with the aim of further relieving traffic congestion.

Vehicle manufacturers as forerunners

Further developments in the field of automated transport were presented by Continental. This automotive supplier demonstrated three so-called autonomous mobile robots: the Continental Corriere is a small delivery robot that transports food or packages in urban areas. The Continental Contadino on the other hand is an agricultural robot that can autonomously sow, plant and spread fertiliser. Their third robot was developed for deployment in intralogistics, in other words to provide assistance in production plants or logistics centres. All three prototype robots use sensor and camera technologies that were originally developed for automated driving.  This example demonstrates that the automotive manufacturers are forerunners for other sectors in terms of automation and digitisation.

Overall the ITS clarified how future transport solutions relating to road, rail, logistics facilities and in the air can be realised and interlocked with each other. These are solutions targeting sustainable transport that harmonises both economy and ecology. The task now is to test these concepts in practice and make them suitable for everyday use. This is exactly the path that MAN is following.

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