MAN Truck & Bus
Remarkably often it is small things that stand for big changes. The three-finger-wide switch, for example, right next to the steering wheel. This is the new electric parking brake, which used to be a pneumatic lever located in its own centre console next to the driver’s seat. But there is no longer a centre console in the new truck generation. "I noticed that straight away," says Manuel Eichleiter. Free through-passage in the cab – if that is not an improvement. Eichleiter, 31 years old and a professional driver since 2009, is enthusiastic. He quickly got used to the new means of manually activating the parking brake.
what distinguish the new generation of MAN trucks. With a concept that is already tailored to the needs of the user in its approach. The developers did not orient themselves to the previous model for the new truck, but rather to the everyday work of its drivers. And this approach is noticeable in the vehicle: "The vehicle has been completely redefined," says Dr Britta Michel, who is head of the Central HMI Research department and along with her team was instrumental in its development.
Almost a thousand truck drivers have given their verdict as test users. One of them is Manuel Eichleiter. He drove many kilometres in the simulator and gave his opinion in workshops, for instance on the concept for ergonomics. Many months later, he sees the result as a prototype. He is excited to turn the steering wheel levers, press buttons, and check the on-screen menu navigation. The verdict, succinctly: "I like it," he then pulls the drawers below the dashboard. "A4 fits in easily," he says contentedly. More space in the cab – because the centre console is gone. The fact that it has disappeared has further advantages.
The gear selector lever is now located on the right-hand side of the steering wheel; an ergonomically shaped steering column switch in a convenient position. Its rotational movements are optimally matched to hand movements. The driver also uses the steering column switch to operate automated driving programs, a further development of the previous gear shift programs. Their operation has become much more convenient – thanks to uniform design of the graphic display screens. These are designed so that every driver, regardless of their training and experience, can manoeuvre the vehicle as efficiently and safely as possible. The large digital TFT display behind the steering wheel is also new. The speedometer and rev counter are only displayed virtually and cropped, leaving plenty of room in the middle for more information. Which assistance systems are activated, for example. Important: the imagery is self-explanatory and concise.
"There are more and more functions in the cockpit, but they still have to remain clear for the driver," explains Holger Mohra, Head of Vehicle Functions and HMI. "Our new concept is a success in this respect." The basic ergonomic design of the cockpit provides a clear separation between display and operation. The distance between large displays and driver is based on the television principle: a comparatively large distance improves readability for drivers of all ages. The controls, on the contrary, are all convenient and can be accessed safely without moving from a seated position. The infotainment and navigation system, which are displayed on a 12-inch screen, have been significantly enhanced. Control is via a rotary push-button integrated into the dashboard: the MAN SmartSelect. It can be operated blindly via a menu selection ring. Supported by a palm rest, the infotainment system can be operated safely and intuitively via MAN SmartSelect, even given the vibration influences of an air-sprung driver’s seat – always while maintaining a comfortable seating position. "A real highlight that nobody else offers," says test user Manuel Eichleiter.
were interviewed and included in workshops
Gaze measurement In the driving simulator, it is tested whether the driver concentrates on the road or whether his gaze lingers on the displays.
Driving simulation Test driver Manuel Eichleiter steers over a country road.
Teamwork Holger Mohra discusses the design of the new instrument cluster with his colleagues.
WE WANT TO MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR DRIVERS.
Dr Britta Michel
Head of HMI Central Research at MAN
Drivers view menu information on the display, which is arranged at a pleasant viewing level. They look straight ahead, not down, and are therefore less distracted from the traffic. MAN has for the first time created all menu contents to be consistently presented in the same design style. This also helps ensure that operation is clear and fluid.
The driving time assistant can also be activated via the instrument cluster. This prepares the results from the digital tachograph: at the touch of a button, drivers can discover how long the legally prescribed break will last and when they will reach the maximum driving time, for example. "We want to make it as easy as possible for drivers," says Britta Michel.
he operating functions in the door mean a new level of quality. Drivers no longer have to climb into the cab to turn the hazard warning lights on and off or to adjust the manoeuvring lights – a big safety plus. Drivers are also supported by improved assistance systems for turning and changing lanes: LED warning lights on the A-pillar plus an acoustic warning tone indicate in several stages whether cyclists or pedestrians are approaching. "It’s great to have added safety," says Eichleiter. There is also an LED warning light on the left A-pillar. It signals approaching vehicles in the so-called blind spot – useful for overtaking and when merging onto a motorway. As in the passenger car sector, support from automated technology is also increasing in truck-based transport.
Dr Britta Michel, Head of HMI Central Research at MAN
How were you involved in the project?
I worked with my team to discover how the new driver's workplace can best be adapted to drivers and their needs. We investigated what a central control element in the middle should look like, for example: a touch screen, a touch pad, a rotary dial? We engaged the drivers very early and looked at what distracts them the least while driving and what they can utilise well.
What were you able to achieve?
We were able to start from scratch, question everything, recreate everything. It's not often you're given such an opportunity. And that's something which was very productive and a lot of fun, especially because we involved the drivers.
How does it feel now to see the final result of your work?
It's the most rewarding thing to experience how much joy it gives drivers to drive the new truck. It is a vehicle of the user for the user, this much is also clear.
Holger Mohra, Head of Vehicle Functions and HMI at MAN
How were you involved in the project?
I was first a team leader, then a division manager. My task was to launch the display and operation concepts for the vehicle's new interior, plan their development in terms of time and content, network them across divisions and ensure that deadlines were strictly observed.
What did you find particularly challenging?
There are many subjective individual opinions on what a driver's workplace should look like, and various influences, that must be taken into account: cost pressure, for example, and basic technical feasibility. We took the drivers' view and – with all due understanding for other aspects – fought to ensure that the solutions were tailored to their needs as best as possible.
What are you particularly proud of?
That we anchored this form of user-centered development at MAN for the first time. The subject of ergonomics and HMI was previously handled on a decentralised basis, with the risk of creating isolated solutions. This time we concidered all concepts as a whole at one point. So the whole display and operating philosophy is unified.
"The controls should be as future-ready as possible," says Holger Mohra. Levers or rocker switches that engage are no longer compatible with modern, flexible software. So the new truck generation has more and more buttons whose positions remain unchanged after operation and which can be individually configured in some cases. The driver still feels a pressure point during manual operation and knows that the function has been successfully changed. A lot of emphasis was placed on an integrated haptic concept: it should never be the case that one button is hard to press and another one easy. The teams around Britta Michel and Holger Mohra have been working on further development of a truck’s operating and display elements for over ten years. 742 drivers were interviewed and involved in workshops, two dozen studies were conducted and topics such as the ergonomics and feel of operating elements were developed in collaboration with universities and research institutes. But the developers themselves also drove to rest areas, talked to drivers, viewed their cockpits and their handmade solutions. Recognising the achievements of the drivers and taking their wishes seriously – that was the guiding principle for Michel and her colleagues. "Because it is they, not us, who are sitting in the driver’s seat for hours on end."
Work should include relaxation. The seat and steering wheel can therefore be adjusted with a single movement for short breaks. There are also very spacious storage compartments in the cab roof that accommodate sports bags. And the fridge is built into the bottom of the bed in the living area. All relevant functions can be controlled via couch operation, which for the first time has a display: radio, light and alarm clock as well as sunroof, central locking and air conditioning. Getting up is so much easier if the temperature in the truck is properly controlled.