MAN Truck & Bus

Porträt von Chung Anh Tran, Head of Autonomous Driving der Deutschen Bahn

We believe in platooning

Chung Anh Tran, Head of Autonomous Driving at Deutsche Bahn, is convinced of the opportunities offered by autonomous logistics. He will also focus on a strong partnership with MAN in the future.


Dr. Chung Anh Tran

is one of the pioneers of automation in freight transport and is Head of Autonomous Driving at Deutsche Bahn AG. Deutsche Bahn is one of the world's largest logistics service providers with its business divisions DB Schenker for road transport and DB Cargo for rail transport.

Mr Tran, Deutsche Bahn was heavily involved in the world's first testing of platooning in real traffic. Why?

TRAN Autonomous driving will have a major influence on our business models of the future. Platooning is part of this. We want to be a leading innovator and market driver in the use of this technology. Working together with MAN, we have gained valuable experiences from the practical testing.

What is your conclusion based on these experiences?

TRAN Our goal was to be able to integrate platooning into our real logistics. We have implemented this with success. The platoon truck technology is working perfectly. The positive feedback from truck drivers has even exceeded our expectations. Their acceptance of automation is a key factor.

Will car drivers also accept platooning becoming the norm?

TRAN The more that the public experience autonomous driving in practice, understand the technology and recognise its uses, the more they will accept it. That is also why the testing, such as the EDDI (Electronic Drawbar - Digital Innovation) project, is so important. People need experience in order to be able to get to grips with a topic. At Deutsche Bahn, we believe in platooning.

Skeptics fear that platoons may become a traffic obstruction. What would you say?

TRAN I would give a somewhat provocative answer: convoys of trucks in the inside lane are commonplace these days, they are just not autonomous. The traffic flow will improve through platooning because trucks that are coupled together will take up less space. In addition, the high number of accidents involving trucks can be reduced. These are usually caused by human errors. Autonomous controls are safer.

How will DB Schenker customers benefit from platooning?

TRAN Through more reliable and probably also faster deliveries.

How does the technology need to be developed further in order to reach its full potential?

TRAN Multi-brand platooning is essential for our logistics, i.e. the opportunity to combine trucks with a variety of brands. A digital interface needs to be created for this. Even multi-company platooning would then be feasible: several logistics companies combining their consignments. This could be done on the fly using an app. I am sure that new interesting digital business models will arise based on platooning that will make transport more efficient.

Is platooning a competitor or a valuable addition for rail transport?

TRAN Freight transport in Germany is growing in general. By 2030, road transport will increase by 30 percent and rail transport will increase by 20 percent. Both systems must be optimally expanded and interlinked in order to tackle this enormous transport capacity. We will also ultimately bolster rail transport with the use of autonomous trucks for shuttle services.

You are already testing a follow-up project for autonomous driving. What does this involve?

TRAN On entering a DB Schenker terminal, the aim is for the truck to find its way autonomously to the unloading point. Since we are on private property, we can take the automation to a higher level than in public traffic. At the same time, there is a complex traffic situation in the terminal, with some autonomous vehicles and others controlled by people. If we can cope with this situation, we will learn a lot about autonomous driving.

MAN and Fresenius University of Applied Sciences are still on board?

TRAN Yes, our consortium worked very well together during the EDDI project. We want to continue to work together as an experienced team.

Interview   Felix Enzian
Photos   Joe Hoelzl


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