MAN Truck & Bus

A gold-colored MAN TGX drives through MunichA gold-colored MAN TGX drives through Munich

HOW OptiView IS REVOLUTIONISING TRUCK DRIVING

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Test driving a truck without exterior mirrors? What may seem risky at first is in fact the testing of a new, innovative mirror replacement system that makes conventional exterior mirrors obsolete. Trade journalist Jan Burgdorf submits the system called MAN OptiView to a genuine endurance test under real conditions. A report with extensive vision.

Portrait of the journalist Jan Burgdorf
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An experienced test driver Trade journalist Jan Burgdorf, editor of the “Trucker” and “Verkehrsrundschau” magazines.

For most Munich residents, it's just a rainy day in July. Jan Burgdorf, however, has something special in mind this Thursday. He is the first trade journalist in Germany to test the camera system that MAN will be offering for its trucks from 2022 onwards – in place of mirrors. The planned start is at 09.30 from the MAN Truck Forum. Burgdorf climbs into the cab of a gold coloured TGX. Five hours later, over an espresso in the MAN Lion’s Lounge at the visitor centre, he gives his conclusion: “I’m really impressed by the system. MAN is ahead of the market with this.”

What Burgdorf is testing today is the result of a continuous engineering effort. Because the all-new truck generation that was first presented in February 2020 is getting even better, with numerous recently announced new features. These mainly result in greater safety and more comfort for the drivers – but also include being able to reduce diesel consumption by up to 3.7 per cent based on new drive functions. 

Consumption efficiency benefits the environment and saves money. “Entrepreneurs will find that pretty good,” says Burgdorf. Most drivers probably will too, especially since improvements such as the reduction in engine speed when rolling at idle do not affect the driving experience. It makes better use of the momentum a 40-tonne truck gains on a downhill run, but, Burgdorf says, “this is a new feature that most riders probably won't notice.” Another optimisation is the torque adjustment, which takes load off the engine on hills and makes the truck drive minimally slower. But the highlight is the sun visor, which is designed to be fuel-neutral. “One indication of this is that you no longer hear wind noise,” says the journalist. “In future, no one at MAN will have to do without a sun visor just because they want to save fuel.” MAN is thus defusing an old conflict between entrepreneurs who think economically and drivers who don't want to do without the smart part. Burgdorf's conclusion: “When it comes to saving fuel, MAN is right at the front.”

REDUCED RISK OF ACCIDENTS

One change is immediately obvious: the truck doesn’t have any exterior mirrors. Their functionality is assumed by MAN OptiView, which is the name of the mirror replacement system. Burgdorf points upwards: just under the roof to the right, left and front there are small cameras on adjustable housing arms. They transmit the images to displays on the A-pillar, in the case of front mirror replacement also to the navigation screen. Jan Burgdorf is amazed. “In fact the driver sees even more”, he says. The system makes blind spots a thing of the past, because the camera software combines various perspectives. And the risk of accidents is reduced, since there are no mirror housings to restrict the driver's view.

For a decade, the 43-year-old has been writing about freight transport and logistics for the driver’s magazine “Trucker” and for “Verkehrsrundschau” (Traffic Review), which is aimed at operators. He is moreover an experienced user who obtained his truck driving license at an early stage during his non-military service. At that time he was transporting aid supplies, mostly to Romania. Even during his studies to become a graduate editor he was often behind the wheel transporting liquid chocolate, large exhibition stands and stage props. “Those experiences stand me in good stead today”, says Burgdorf. He knows what is important to drivers and what matters to them. It’s clear to him that many of them will see the mirror replacement system as a significant improvement: “It certainly represents a change.” In his eyes one that is worthwhile – and will be welcomed. “Within just ten years we have all of this.”

BENEFITS OF THE SYSTEM

The journalist took his time coming to a decision. He drove north from the MAN Truck Forum in Karlsfeld near Munich to test how the system performs in roundabouts. And in underpasses – there the displays automatically become brighter thanks to photosensitive sensors. There are also special filters to prevent the headlights on vehicles behind from dazzling the driver, which can happen with mirrors. Burgdorf was also able to determine that the cameras aren’t affected by rain and spray. The engineers have designed the housing in such a way that the lenses remain free and the image quality remains good. “It’s also brilliant that you don’t have to scrape ice off the mirrors in winter”: the cameras are heated.

The system offers multiple views, since on top of the standard optics from conventional mirrors there are zoom and wide angle views that offer the driver all-round visibility. The front and ramp mirrors have also been digitised and improved to give an overview of what’s happening directly in front of and next to the vehicle. “We tried that out earlier with a pedestrian”, says Burgdorf. He felt that the displays were a nice size – 15-inch on the passenger side and 12-inch on the driver’s side. The image reproduction was also deemed to be good, despite slight blurring. He didn’t see that as specific to MAN, just what is currently available on the market. “But in a few years there’s bound to be progress there too.”

MAN OptiView mirror replacement system: detailed image
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Display on the passenger side There is no longer a blind spot when you have OptiView.

Test runs like this are exciting for both parties. The journalist learns about the trends that are shaping the industry, and can give readers early information on innovations. And the reaction to the test run gives the company an indication of how their innovations will be received by customers. Of course Burgdorf only saw some of the innovations for the 2022 model year. Beyond OptiView there will be other new assistance functions available, such as the new LCCPA lane change collision prevention assistant that actively intervenes if there is a risk of an accident when changing lanes, or an electronic controller called MAN CruiseAssist that automatically steers, accelerates and brakes on motorways. The engineers have also developed new features for digital services like MAN Perform and MAN ServiceCare, these include automated fleet and driver reports and proactive maintenance management.

OPTIVIEW IN AN ENDURANCE TEST

As a journalist, Burgdorf felt it was especially important to subject OptiView to a genuine endurance test. He drives on the A99 to the ProfiDrive facilities in Ismaning, which offers space for reversing, coupling and manoeuvring. What appeals to him: “The camera has such a wide field that the driver can always have the rear in view. That’s really useful when manoeuvring and also when making a turn.” He is particularly interested in how the guidance lines that drivers can have shown on the displays are proving their worth. They indicate the end of the semi-trailer, for example, and help in docking at the ramp with total precision. Burgdorf is happy that the principle works: “It makes manoeuvring backwards with confidence so much easier.” Other lines help with maintaining sufficient separation when overtaking or driving through narrow passages. “Drivers can configure the width of their truck”, Burgdorf explains. “They can see where they’ll fit through.” This also reduces the risk of minor damage.

The condition is that the drivers are adept at using the system. Burgdorf recommends taking time for an in-depth introduction. This will subsequently enable users to benefit from all the options this innovation has to offer. “That doesn’t have to mean a whole day, probably only half an hour”, he believes. This should especially benefit drivers that find it hard to cope with digitisation. The journalist expresses empathy for this. “It is certainly a bit weird at first. But we have to be prepared to try new things. And there are of course people who will love a system like this.” The others may be convinced by the additional safety the system has to offer: In future you can use a camera to ensure everything outside is as it should be, even when the curtains are drawn.

Find out more about the innovative OptiView mirror replacement system in the interview with developer Albert Zaindl.

Text   Christine Mattauch
Photos   Jonas Nefzger

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