MAN Truck & Bus
The truck comes to a stop with squealing tires. It leaves black marks on the asphalt. The driver smiles. It worked out. The emergency brake assist has successfully brought the 40-ton vehicle to a standstill. The black-and-white patterned camouflage film reveals that this truck is a very special vehicle. What does it hide? The new TGX from MAN, the 2020 truck generation.
Rainer Miksch, test manager for trucks and buses, and his staff are working at the test track in Munich to prepare products for series production. They have been testing the new TG in all model variants for four years. Over 100 test drivers and test engineers have covered nearly five million kilometres with 60 test vehicles to ensure the new generation meets all customer requirements. "We’ve done that," test manager Miksch says with certainty.
But the trial teams have to conduct numerous tests to proceed from prototype to finished product. Mechanics like Manfred Leopold and engineers like Christian Horn collaborate closely to achieve this. Their tasks are clearly distributed: Leopold, who is already accompanying the third generation of trucks on the test track, prepares the trial vehicles for the tests and equips them with the specific measuring technology. There can be up to 250 measuring points per vehicle.
Horn, in turn, evaluates the collated data to identify potential vulnerabilities and then derive appropriate measures. His speciality is the powertrain, longitudinal dynamics systems and consumption-related functions. The test drivers always check the interaction of a component with the entire vehicle whilst they are driving. "The interaction of all systems has to function when full, partially loaded and empty," says Horn.
Experienced test drivers Test mechanics Manfred Leopold (left) and test engineer Christian Horn (right) travelled thousands of kilometres with the new truck and conducted numerous measurements.
The team therefore tests each individual feature during a trial. And in different test scenarios. While the test site in Munich offers the opportunity to test the vehicle in the early prototype stage, tests on public roads help to simulate the customers’ working conditions. The test drivers then demand the maximum from the new TG in summer and winter tests. This involves them being on site for several months in Spain and Sweden to test the vehicle under extreme conditions.
During these summer and winter tests, the Management Board reviews the vehicles’ degree of development maturity. This gives Management Board members the opportunity to sit behind the wheel themselves and get a feel for the truck. The board members experienced the new truck generation for the first time during the summer test in 2017. "The ability to demonstrate the vehicles’ maturity level to the Management Board and discuss possible optimisation is an essential part of the development process," explains Miksch.
The ability to offer customers the best possible vehicle requires customer requirements to be the focus of development and testing right from the start. "I’m the first customer for my staff," states Rainer Miksch. This involves the test manager switching into different roles. Sometimes he is a driver travelling in long-distance traffic, sometimes a customer from the distribution sector. But the customers themselves are also involved in bodies such as the Expert Advisory Board. Some of them test individual features in their daily work – like MAN EfficientCruise, a GPS-controlled cruise control system. This enables MAN to address any improvement requests and make adjustments before the official launch.
and test engineers participated in testing the new generation of trucks.
were covered by the new MAN truck during test drives prior to market launch.
were used. Many were camouflaged as they journeyed on the streets.
Undercover mission A new MAN-truck driving through Munich with form concealing camouflage to prevent it being recognised prior to market launch.
Miksch and his team check every detail, whether it relates to technical or structural aspects. "We decide how the customer will subsequently experience the vehicle," says Miksch. Different viewpoints come together during the tests. "We discussed at one point whether drivers needed a place to store their mobile phone, newspaper or glasses right by the bed, or whether next to the dashboard was sufficient," he relates. As banal as this detail sounds, it’s crucial to the driver’s comfort. In addition to more efficient and safer working, the new TG will enable a significant improvement in driving and living comfort within the cab. "The structure of the cab, its storage space and operating concept have been massively optimised," says test mechanic Manfred Leopold.
Now the driver can move more freely in the cab, which is particularly noticeable during long tours. "You can also adjust the seat and steering column to a perfect fit, and you can feel this difference immediately," explains Leopold. This means the driver can now concentrate even more fully on the traffic. This is made possible by the newly designed display concept and the optimised door mirror system.
The team has also had a direct influence on the assistance systems. They were involved in the development of turn assist, for example, which finally closes a central truck safety gap: the blind spot. Development of this system was a challenge, relates Manfred Leopold looking back. The system should only warn the driver if a pedestrian or cyclist is within the blind spot, but not if it involves static objects, such as an advertising column. Correct calibration of the radar sensors was decisive here. It included the testers appraising this by placing themselves next to the trucks at different distances. When the system was operational, they tested it in real-world situations – across Europe. "The system also has to cope with road markings in Slovenia, Italy and England," explains Leopold. For Miksch and his employees, the result is more than satisfactory after four years of work. "The driving experience is agile and dynamic," says Miksch. "We also introduced many modern approaches to the vehicle and created a perfect mix of old and new."