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CELEBRITIES USE MAN OptiView TO DRIVE LIKE PROFESSIONAL TRUCKERS

 

MAN OptiView, the new digital mirror replacement system, has no blind spots. Celebrities and professionals demonstrate its ease of use at the Schweitenkirchen motorway service area to launch the MAN TruckLife Tour, which is heading throughout Europe in August 2021. Entertainers Matze Knop and Ross Antony were among those using camera assistance to safely manoeuvre the MAN TGX through its test course.

Matze Knop und Ross Antony sitzen im Fahrerhaus einem MAN TGX.
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Celebrities at the wheel Matze Knop (right) and Ross Antony (left) are looking forward to their test drive in the MAN TGX.

Matze Knop is confident of victory. Wearing mirrored sunglasses and with his elbow hanging out the window, the comedian and football impersonator sits in the cab of a gold-coloured MAN TGX and calls out: “I’m going to put that English pop idol with his sofa-fabric suits in his place!” Ross Antony, the "pop idol”, British-German TV presenter and musical actor, prances towards his opponent and pulls his mobile phone from his jacket pocket. He's wearing a red-checked suit that really wouldn’t look out of place as a stylish seat cover. “I’m gonna take a photo of you”, Antony says to his adversary, “then later I’ll be able to show you what you looked like before I beat you.”

Matze Knop against Ross Antony, what a duel between glib talkers. But neither of them are here at the Schweitenkirchen services on the A9 motorway north of Munich to have fun. Their appearance involves a serious matter – road safety. The driver challenge in which they and five other celebrities and truckers are participating marks the prelude to the TruckLife Tour, a MAN road show that runs until 24 August 2021 and is stopping off at motorway service stations in six European countries. These events will be used to present the new MAN OptiView digital mirror replacement system, which eliminates blind spots  thus increasing road safety. The summer holidays in Bavaria began just a few days ago and the service stations are becoming crowded. Matze Knop knows all too well that queasy feeling of wandering around in the vicinity of manoeuvring trucks. “I’m always a bit scared that a driver might not have seen me.”

Better view, greater safety

Anyone who ever sat in the driver’s seat of a truck knows that this concern isn’t unwarranted. Drivers conventionally have to keep an eye on a total of six mirrors to see what is happening next to, behind and beneath them – yet there are still a number of blind spots. The cyclist next to the passenger door who suddenly disappears from view; entire passenger cars that can vanish behind the A-pillars, partly because the mirrors themselves significantly widen these pillars. MAN OptiView uses cameras mounted above the window, thus significantly reducing the risk of truck drivers failing to see other road users. The field of vision provided by the digital mirror replacement system discloses blind spots on both on the driver and passenger side. Safety is additionally increased when combined with the radar-based MAN turning assistant.

But how easy is it to use the system? Can a fairly inexperienced driver use MAN OptiView to safely reverse a MAN TGX with semi-trailer into a parking space? A course was marked out in a cordoned-off area to find out if this was possible. Knop, Antony and the other five adversaries have to reverse for around 50 metres and finally manoeuvre into a parking space marked with cones. Matze Knop takes off his sunglasses, pulls in his elbow and closes the window. Poking your head out isn’t allowed, but wouldn’t help much in any case: Knop’s only previous truck journey was when moving house using a 3.5-ton van, with which he promptly struck a fuel price display board when reversing at a filling station. This time, however, he has a decisive advantage: the two oblong OptiView screens mounted on the A-pillars inside the vehicle give him a complete, detailed and crisp overview of his surroundings. The view automatically switches mode from normal view to wide angle and back, depending on speed and turning angle. “Three, two, one – and off we go!”, shouts the comedian. The truck starts moving. Knop seems to have got himself a bit wedged after just a few metres. No wonder, since his only experience with a trailer was when collecting a Christmas tree. But he’s back on track after driving forward to straighten things up. It’s looking good for him – at least in the duel with Ross Antony, who took his turn directly ahead of him and celebrated as if he’d just won Olympic gold after crossing the finish line in 1:49 minutes.

Truck trial driver sets the best time

The overwhelming competition had already completed the course before either of them: truck trial drivers Marcel Schoch along with Jan Plieninger and his co-driver Marc Stegmaier. Schoch set the best time with 38 seconds – albeit he did take out one of the cones in the heat of the race, as did Jan Plieninger (47 seconds), which earned them each a ten-second penalty. The two TV truckers Julia Beitler and Bettina Lammer were a bit more cautious and manoeuvered neatly into the parking space in 2:26 and 3:14 minutes respectively, but were clearly slower than their competitors – including former world-class biathlete Simon Schempp (1:29).

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More and more spectators found their way beneath the canopies of the MAN stand in the course of the afternoon, including members of the MAN Trucker’s World driving club as well as a few long-distance drivers on their travels. Fortified by a steak from the food truck, the visitors climb into the cab of the MAN TGX to see a demonstration of the features in the International Truck Of The Year 2021. In addition to the mirror replacement system, the TGX is also equipped with other innovative assistance systems, including MAN CruiseAssist (long-distance assistant) and the LCCPA lane change collision prevention assistant.

Some truckers even take the opportunity to spend a night in the sleeping cabin of the TGX and experience for themselves the comfort of the slatted frame and full-length mattress. The windows, air conditioning, roof hatch and radio can all be conveniently operated via remote control while lying down. Another advantage of MAN OptiView becomes apparent overnight: the cameras provide an all-round view even with the curtains drawn – which is important when you never know who’s sneaking around the service station after dark. A sensor automatically adjusts the cameras’ light intensity and the screens’ brightness to all times of day and night. How large the visibility shadow can be in broad daylight is recounted by one of the professional drivers who happened to visit the MAN stand: Robert Dusl from the eponymous haulage company based in Obersüßbach in Lower Bavaria. His son, he recounts, conducts traffic training in schools and kindergartens on behalf of the provincial police directorate to point out the dangers of blind spots in a rear-view mirror: “He can squeeze 40 children into the blind spot during his demonstrations.”

"Even someone like me who has never driven a truck can operate the MAN OptiView system."

Ross Antony 
TV presenter 

Safely across the line

If Matze Knop were to be driving using conventional rear-view mirrors, he wouldn’t see anything other than the tarpaulin on the semi-trailer as he has to make another good turn in the last few metres. Yet the camera system enables him to see beyond the rear, even at the maximum turning angle. So he finally manages to cross the line without knocking over a single cone. “Well?", he calls from the cab as the engine is still running.  “Did I do better than the pop idol?” He did. 1:14 – a remarkable time for a beginner. “The cameras make it so easy, they really are a massive help”, he says after jumping down. “The next time a ship gets stuck in the Suez Canal we can reverse the whole way there to collect the containers.” But this time on a serious note: “It’s obvious that even someone like me who has never driven a truck can operate the system”, concludes Ross Antony, the adversary that Knop has just defeated. “And that makes the roads safer, even for small car drivers such as me.” Matze Knop adds as an afterthought that he’d ideally like to install the mirror replacement system in his car. “So that I don’t always hit the kerb when reversing.” And it seems he is being serious.

The photos were taken in the summer of 2021 in compliance with all hygiene and protective measures against Covid-19.

Text   Julius Schophoff
Photos   Jonas Nefzger

#Truckoftheyear#Safety#AssistanceSystems#Truck#TGX
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