MAN Truck & Bus

Ice hockey Heilbronner Falken

Top skaters in the Innovation Bus

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The MAN Bus team has fitted out a NEOPLAN Skyliner with plenty of extras. Two ice hockey teams were the first to enjoy the new features.

MAN’s vehicle modification experts can make almost any customer wish come true. They customise trucks in Wittlich, Munich and Krakow, buses in Ankara and vans in Sady. For structure and equipment, these specialists make anything that is technically feasible a reality – the customer is king at MAN when it comes to vehicle customisation.

In the most recent example, MAN has packed a wealth of innovative ideas into the NEOPLAN Skyliner triple-axle, double-decker tour bus, designed to improve passenger comfort and safety while making life easier for the driver at the same time. “In the last few years, we have had more and more enquiries from long-distance bus operators and new players entering the long-distance bus market and wanting to differentiate themselves from the market leaders with innovative concepts,” reports Heinz Kiess, head of product marketing at MAN Truck & Bus. “However, bus operators from the tourism sector have also asked us for new designs that go beyond the well-known bistro bus. That gave us the push to implement lots of new ideas.”

Nevertheless, the development of new technologies or equipment is no easy task. There is usually no shortage of ideas, but how do new features become reality? Do they fulfil customer requests or are they developed without taking those needs into account? These questions are best answered when used under real-world conditions. And who is better placed to evaluate the practicality and equipment of an exclusive tour bus than top-flight sports teams? After all, they demand the same performance from their team bus as from their toned bodies. It’s no surprise that the vehicle is almost like a second home for them: the league 2 ice hockey team the “Heilbronner Falken” and the “Bietigheim Steelers” from league 1 each take around 30 players to their games, travelling more than 30,000 kilometres each year.

It’s a great concept for a team bus and I have had fantastic feedback from the players, who really value maximum seat comfort after a strenuous game

Jason Morgan 
Coach at Heilbronner Falken

NEOPLAN Skyliner Innovation Bus Heilbronn Falcons
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Crammed with features The NEOPLAN Skyliner Innovation bus is jam-packed with extras. The Heilbronner Falken ice hockey team are looking forward to their first trip

NEOPLAN Bus Seats Control App
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Control via app The seats in the NEOPLAN Innovation bus can be operated using a smartphone app

Order drinks via an app in the future

That’s why these two ice hockey teams were also the first testers to be able to check out the modified NEOPLAN’s suitability for day-to-day use. They swapped their usual team buses for the 510 hp modified vehicle for a fortnight.

One of the essential equipment features of the Skyliner that is not available to buy in this form is the top-quality tech-seats from Kiel, fitted for the first time in an unusual 2+1 configuration on the top deck. The seats are based on the Kiel Avance X and, in addition to three-level seat heating and a ventilation function, also offer two-way pneumatic lumbar support, including a massage function. The dual seat can also be supplied with adjustable armrests and an inductive charging function for mobiles on the seat back. Furthermore, three-point seatbelts are fitted as standard.

The functions can be operated either via an app or using the control panel on the seat. Once the app is production-ready, it will even be able to switch on the reading lights and passengers will be able to use it to order their drinks or make an emergency call. A control panel in the cockpit shows the driver which functions are in use and who is wearing their seatbelt at any time.

The top hockey players loved the seat upholstery, as well as the heating and ventilation functions. The massage function was very popular too. “It’s a great concept for a team bus and I have had fantastic feedback from the players, who really value maximum seat comfort after a strenuous game,” says Jason Morgan, coach at Heilbronner Falken. Pirmin Härle, physiotherapist for the league 1 team Bietigheim Steelers, is also a fan: “It’s usually manic in the top ice hockey league, leaving the lads in the locker room precious little time to cool down. That’s why the cooling and massage function is worth its weight in gold.”

Full multimedia program too

Once the celebrations on the bus had died down after the Bietigheim Steelers’ 5-2 derby win over Villingen-Schwenningen, it was time to make use of the Skyliner’s next innovation: the cutting-edge multimedia equipment. For the first time, MAN has installed the big Bosch system with 22-inch HD screens in a NEOPLAN bus. The system, which is not yet available to buy through MAN, consists of the Coach Infotainment Series CM-C 19 touch screen head unit with a 7-inch colour monitor and the CM-X 19 DIN-format control panel – the absolute flagship products in the range.

One of the key benefits of the new system is the high-quality signal transmission between the individual components via automotive ethernet. The new LTE-capable media router will soon be added to provide internet access for at least 50 devices, which will be able to stream loss-free internet content too. However, media content can already be magically sent from smart devices to the monitors via HDMI and USB-A connections. MFI and “Apple-ready” certification means that the system can also display title and album information.

The 22-inch touch screens in the tables of both seating arrangements are also completely new. They are linked to mini-PCs so that Falken coach Jason Morgan can analyse the evening’s match once again. “The table screens really are an innovation! We’re currently testing their use in the ‘family compartment’ and waiting to see how passengers react to them,” explains Heinz Kiess.

Heinz Kiess MAN Head of Product Marketing Bus
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Modifications in demand Heinz Kiess, head of bus product marketing at MAN Truck & Bus, says that innovative concepts are currently in high demand in the long-distance bus market

NEOPLAN Skyliner innovation bus
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MAN makes childhood wishes come true With the innovation bus NEOPLAN gives a glimpse into the near future of comfortable travel

Many safety features significantly reduce the risk of accidents

The MAN OptiView mirror replacement system is also fitted to the NEOPLAN Innovation buses. This is combined with the Mobileye turning assistant and a new 360° Birdview all-round vision system. The Birdview system accurately displays the position of vehicles being overtaken on a super-bright monitor and is used when merging. The sports teams on board can see the quality of the system’s monitors, with their excellent residual light amplification, for themselves when travelling at night.

The bus is also fitted with an emergency braking assistant, the Lane Guard lane monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera and a rain and light sensor. Safety is an essential consideration in the NEOPLAN Innovation bus. Professional ice hockey players can simply lean back and relax after a tough game and enjoy the many new features inside the bus.

In summary, Heinz Kiess says, “Of course, we are well-positioned with all the modifications from the Ankara plant. We have completed the move from Plauen to Ankara successfully in a very short time, and since then we have already completed a number of vehicles there with highly complex conversions and additions. Our customers can confirm that too: feedback on our bus modifications from Ankara is very positive and clearly shows the bus competences of our Turkish site. Furthermore, we will of course continue to use local engineers in the relevant markets to work on existing vehicles and individual customer requests and will work together with them in partnership.”

Text   Torsten Wagner and Boris Pieritz
Photos   MAN

#Skyliner##Bus#IntercityBus
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