MAN Truck & Bus

Portrait Till Schlumberger

We don’t want to just react, but rather help to shape

Autonomous driving is on its way, Till Schlumberger from Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) is convinced. This automation expert explains the challenges that logistics companies will face – and how they can prepare for them.


Till Schlumberger

is a project manager at HHLA and is responsible for the “Hamburg TruckPilot” project jointly initiated with MAN Truck & Bus. His responsibility is project coordination and the identification of potential process adaptations at HHLA.

Mr Schlumberger, what are the greatest challenges when a driverless truck is under way during operation at the CTA facilities?

Schlumberger HHLA’s highly automated processes make Container Terminal Altenwerder the ideal test environment for testing future technologies. Our facilities are moreover in operation 24/7 around the clock, 360 days a year. So it’s a major planning challenge to integrate new technologies into our terminal processes without disrupting ongoing operations. At CTA we already have extensive experience with autonomous vehicles. Automated guided vehicles have been autonomously transporting the containers in a closed area here between the ships and the container storage lanes for 20 years. Albeit the deployment of autonomous trucks is a completely different matter, because it involves mixing autonomous and conventional traffic. From the very beginning, therefore, the issue of safety for our employees and other road users at our terminal played a decisive role in our tests with the prototype MAN trucks.

Why did HHLA decide to participate in the “Hamburg TruckPilot” project?

Schlumberger Autonomous driving is on its way! We at HHLA want, and must prepare for that. It’s second nature at HHLA for us to deal with such developments at an early stage and with foresight. We’re already asking ourselves: what impact will the prospect of autonomous trucks arriving at the terminal have on our processes? How can we continue to ensure our performance on behalf of our customers? What will it mean in terms of health and safety at work? What technical conditions will have to be met? So we don’t just want to be reactive, but to actively shape this development via pioneering activities. There are good reasons for HHLA’s commitment to being the engine of digital change in the port. 

Did the project meet your expectations?

Schlumberger Yes, we were able to gather many important insights. The challenges are now much clearer, even if there’s still a long way to go. It has also become clear, however, that it’s important and right for us to deal with this issue at such an early stage. The Bundestag passed a bill on autonomous driving during the project period. This sets an important course for the future.

How would you rate the cooperation with your colleagues at MAN?

Schlumberger A massive compliment to all involved. Our cooperation was excellent and very professional. I believe both sides always showed a keen understanding of the respective requirements and challenges. Especially under the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictive measures at our terminal facilities. Against this background, the final practical tests were a brilliant and successful highlight.

What are the most significant findings for HHLA?

Schlumberger Our main conclusion is that, yes, it is possible to integrate autonomous trucks into our terminal processes. The Hamburg TruckPilot project has enabled us to create an initial basis for this. But we're just getting started. Safety and the associated acceptance of autonomous traffic is an important aspect here. Safety standards that apply on public roads must also apply in relation to our terminal. Another important point is the ability for automated communication between terminal and truck, which is a prerequisite for the integration of automated traffic into our operations. Now we have to continue working on that so that we’re fit for the autonomous future.

How do you personally assess the future role of automation in logistics?

Schlumberger Many areas of the logistics and transport sector are only at the threshold of sustainable change compared to other major flagship industries. Entrepreneurs and start-ups currently view logistics as a field of global proportions that is often still untapped. This provides considerable opportunities for HHLA. Only those who are open to change and have the courage to actively shape the transformation will be able to exist and enjoy market success in the future. This also requires us to unconditionally embrace new technologies, so that we can consistently tackle future challenges. Autonomous driving and the Hamburg TruckPilot project are good examples of that.

Interview   MAN
Photos   MAN


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