MAN Truck & Bus
heads the Institute for Complex System Research at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences. He and his research team work at the House of Logistics & Mobility in Frankfurt am Main. He has already collaborated with MAN and Deutsche Bahn to successfully implement the EDDI platooning field trial. The system researchers around Christian Haas are now involved in the follow-on ANITA project to realise automated hub-to-hub journeys.
Haas Jointly with Deutsche Bahn and MAN, we’re testing the deployment of an autonomous truck in hub-to-hub traffic between two container terminals in Ulm. The task assigned to Fresenius University of Applied Sciences is to develop a digital control system that enables smooth integration of the driverless truck into the logistical processes at the terminals. Our project objective is that this digital platform not only functions at the two sites in Ulm, but can be transferred to many logistics systems in which autonomous trucks can be used to transport goods, such as other container terminals, ports or even industrial facilities. We can therefore leverage ANITA to create a future basis for deploying autonomous trucks that can be realised as a general business model.
Haas The DUSS terminal in Ulm is an important transport hub for the transfer of containers from road to rail. It is located close to a container depot belonging to DB Intermodal Services GmbH. The aim is for the fully automated MAN truck to be used for round trips between the two terminals and to be loaded and unloaded there.
Haas My team and I have analysed and compared the logistical processes at multiple container terminals in Germany. Our findings should enable us to programme the software in a way that it is generally applicable and contains as few exceptions as possible. Because the fewer exceptions a system contains, the more efficiently it functions. Our aim is also to ensure that terminals don’t have to be specially converted for autonomous trucks to be deployed there. This will enable the technology to be put into practice as simply and cost-effectively as possible.
Haas These are open and complex systems involving many participants: freight forwarders, truck drivers, forklift drivers, crane operators, train operators, dispatchers and numerous subcontractors. The structures are not uniform, since terminals often have their own IT systems, ground rules and requirements that have been established over a long period. Spontaneous human decisions take place alongside automatic processes. A truck driver familiar with the area usually knows where to park their truck nearby to wait for container handling if all the official parking spaces are occupied. Or a dispatcher could shout an instruction to them across the yard. During loading, truck drivers often maintain eye contact with the crane operator or forklift driver and then receive a signal when the container is secured and they can drive off.
Haas It’s a major challenge, since there’s an incredible amount of information that has to be taken into account. Unlike humans, an automated system can’t improvise or bend the rules. There must be a clear instruction for action in every situation. An autonomous truck only knows black or white – this is what I have to do now, I’m not allowed to do that. Not a single piece of information can be missing, since that could bring the entire system to a standstill. At the same time we have to ensure that all the logistical processes run efficiently to ensure as little waiting time as possible.
Haas We now understand the terminal system and can depict it as a business process model. So we’re creating the schematics for autonomous transport. To transfer these into a digital system, we’re collaborating with the Zurich software company Deon Digital. It’s using Contract Specification Language (CSL) for the programming. The resulting set of digital rules for automated transport will be open and expandable. The various terminal operators, freight forwarders and other participants can dock onto it in future with their individual software solutions.
Haas We, Deutsche Bahn and MAN will test the deployment of an autonomous truck in live operation in Ulm once programming of the software is completed. This will enable further important insights regarding the technology and the business model for hub-to-hub traffic. The project team’s close collaboration has already proven itself in the successful EDDI platooning field trial, and it’s also performing superbly in relation to ANITA.
Research into autonomous, automated and networked driving is currently one of the most important topics in technology. The deployment of autonomous trucks has the potential to make goods traffic safer, more efficient and more eco-friendly. MAN, Deutsche Bahn and Fresenius University of Applied Sciences are collaborating in the ANITA project to jointly develop a solution that can be used in the future to realise automated journeys in hub-to-hub traffic. The setting for a field trial is the DUSS terminal in Ulm, where containers are transferred from rail to road and there is an adjacent container depot belonging to DB Intermodal Services GmbH. Albeit the results of the trial should also be transferable to other terminal systems.