MAN Truck & Bus


Why platooning is the future of delivery traffic


Platooning involves two or more equally spaced trucks driving on the motorway – in a convoy threaded like pearls on a necklace. DB Schenker, MAN and Fresenius University of Applied Sciences have now tested the autonomous convoys under real conditions. Five experts identify the major benefits.


More space on the motorway

This may at first sound contradictory, but well-planned convoys operated via a wireless local area network (WLAN) actually ease the traffic. Space is created by two trucks requiring only 50 metres instead of 90 metres. This adds up considering the global potential. Dr. Chung Anh Tran, Head of Autonomous Driving at Deutsche Bahn points to a large road map. Routes marked in colour are suitable for transporting general cargo by road. “At least 40 percent of the kilometres we cover are suitable for platooning”, he states. Society in particular will benefit from this. If more existing gaps are used on the motorways, this will improve the traffic flow for everyone.


Less fuel consumption, lower emissions

Platooning also provides savings in terms of consumption. Although fine adjustments are still required in this respect, it is a step in the right direction and this means less fuel consumption, less expenditure and lower emissions. Trucks travelling in convoy use the slipstream of the vehicle ahead. Platoon trucks currently maintain a distance of 15 to 21 metres between each other. “A reduction down to between 10 and 15 metres could increase the fuel savings further from four percent at present up to 10 percent”, states Sebastian Völl, Project Manager for Autonomous Driving at MAN. The slipstream effect would also increase if the GPS-based cruise control functions (MAN Efficient Cruise, MAN EfficientRoll) were used – this was not possible during the practical testing due to requirements imposed by the authorities.

Blick auf eine befahrene Autobahn mit Platoon-Lkw von MAN
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Energy efficiency The platoon trucks drove 15 to 21 metres apart. Fuel savings during the testing were three to four per cent. Additional savings could be achieved by further reducing this distance.


Proven technical assistants provide the basis

The platooning technology is primarily based on proven assistance systems that are already successfully used in standard MAN vehicles. These include the ACC adaptive cruise control, EBA emergency braking system, serial radar and a serial camera. “The platooning technology will therefore be ready for series production relatively quickly”, states Joachim Drees, Chairman of MAN Truck & Bus. Even three or four platoons are now no longer a great technical challenge in practical testing.

Strong Team

Besides MAN, logistics experts from DB Schenker and researchers from Fresenius University of Applied Sciences were also involved in the EDDI practical platooning testing. During the two-year planning and implementation phase of this trial, the MAN platoon travelled around 35,000 kilometres back and forth between the DB Schenker locations in Munich and Nuremberg.

More about the platooning project


New technologies provide even greater safety

Consistent further development of the technology will make autonomous driving even more predictable. One example is the recently tested Lidar sensor, which detects potential obstructions or vehicles cutting in earlier than a radar due to its large opening angle. A safety system that monitors all the control signals from the convoy with respect to plausibility is also important in platooning. Head-up displays for platoon drivers are recommended by Prof. Dr. Christian Haas, Director of the Institute for Complex Systems Research at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences. Using eye-tracking glasses, he and his team analysed the drivers’ eye movements and determined that they briefly glanced away from the road to look at the tachometer in some situations in order to find out about the status of the platoon. These eye movements lasted on average no more than two seconds, but head-up displays would avert these risks.

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Explained in the video The future summed up in two minutes – how platooning works. 


Platoon drivers enjoy a new aura of prestige

Dr. Sabine Hammer, a researcher at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences interviewed the platoon drivers after their journeys. “You rated platooning as a plus in terms of safety and driving comfort”, she states. There are several reasons for this: convoys provide relief for the drivers because they have less driving time in the following vehicle. In addition, the controls on the two electronically coupled MAN trucks proved to be very robust. The drivers only had to actively intervene once per 2000 kilometres driven – markedly less often than expected. Not once did the drivers consider the situation to be uncontrollable, even when cars forced their way in between the trucks. In conclusion, the drivers have confidence in the new technology and view working as a platoon driver as an enhancement to their profession.

Five autonomous driving projects

Text   Felix Enzian / Ina Brzoska
Photos   MAN


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