VW calls for legislative catch-up on platooning

By: Rob McKay

DB Schenker backs the concept as MAN and Scania make autonomous vehicle headway in Germany and Singapore

VW calls for legislative catch-up on platooning
MAN and DB Schenker are testing platooning


As it highlights two trial projects, VW Truck & Bus has called for legislative progress to match the technological and efficiency promise of autonomous truck platooning.

The bugbear for truck manufacturers and others is the failure of legal structures to keep up with technological and efficiency developments.

"The pilot projects are key components of more efficient transportation of goods on the road," VW board member and Volkswagen Truck & Bus Andreas Renschler stresses.

"Platooning is beneficial for the environment, improves the flow of traffic and increases road safety.

"What we now need is the legislative framework allowing us to introduce platooning on public roads."

MAN chairman Joachim Drees echoed the sentiments, emphasising the safety aspect.

"Platooning offers clear advantages in terms of fuel consumption and a reduced risk of accidents," Drees says.

"The tests performed to date have shown this.

"Now we want to work with DB Schenker to demonstrate what platooning is capable of in real-life conditions."


MAN and logistics specialist DB Schenker are forging what VW describes as the first platooning alliance between an automotive manufacturer and a logistics company.

"Its purpose is to test platooning under realistic conditions over an extended period of time to gain meaningful data."

A platoon is to travel on the A9 motorway between Munich and Nuremberg from 2018, and later be used at DB Schenker's facility in Nuremberg.

MAN and DB Schenker signed a memorandum of understanding in late November.

"Our target is to become the driver of digital business models in the transport and logistics industry and to be the provider of choice for customers seeking both digital and non-digital services," DB Schenker chairman Jochen Thewes says.

 "We therefore welcome this opportunity to cooperate with MAN and test platooning at an early stage in day-to-day operations between land transport terminals.

"DB Schenker and MAN expect this partnership to generate new findings for optimising logistics processes."

He was supported by DB Schenker board member for land transport Ewald Kaiser, who noted a range of advantages.

"The project focuses on customer demand for completely transparent as well as faster and more eco-friendly processes," Kaiser says.

"On the whole, we expect this to deliver a significant increase in efficiency by linking up new solutions with the logistics processes of our customers.

"We believe that networked and automated driving has enormous potential."

In the project’s first phase is to clarify the fundamental issues for trial operations, identify suitable scenarios for testing platooning operations and define the technical and logistical requirements for the compilation of platoons.

Another project area will deal with the collection and provision of the necessary information and the use of that information by the truck manufacturer and logistics specialist.

The partners will also look at the scope for combining platooning with other digital services as well as questions of costs and savings potential.

The project will additionally investigate the requirements that platooning drivers have to satisfy as well as the general impact of this new technology on the truck as a workplace, now and in future.

"Many of these things are still a long way off into the future, but we wish to test and help to shape this future, and to provide inspiration and incentive," Thewes said.

"We want to integrate networked, self-driving trucks into our logistics processes and find out what benefits – apart from the savings in fuel consumption – can be achieved for our customers and operational processes."


Meanwhile, half a world away, in what VW Truck & Bus says is the world's largest pilot project of this kind, Scania is to develop and test a "comprehensive platooning solution" for the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).

Truck platoons each composed of four trucks are to cover a distance of 10 km on public roads to transport containers between various port terminals.

The driver of the first truck will set the speed and direction, with the following three vehicles driving autonomously.

The project has been commissioned by the Singapore port authority and the ministry of transport (MOT) and Scania is in competition with Toyota Group trading arm Toyota Tsusho.

"Given the high population density and lack of drivers, the Singapore government is interested in new technology-based transportation solutions," the manufacturer says.

"During the first phase of the project, Scania will be trialling the technology at its own test facility in Södertälje, Sweden, where it will be customizing it to meet local conditions.

"After this has been completed, the second phase will involve testing in Singapore."

For the island nation, issues other than efficiency are at play.

"Trucking as we know it today is a highly labour-intensive industry," permanent secretary for transport and chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore (CARTS) Pang Kin Keong says.

"We face a shortage of truck drivers. In this regard, truck platooning technology presents us with an opportunity to boost productivity in both the port sector and the trucking industry.

"It will also open up opportunities for truck drivers to take on higher-skilled roles as fleet operators and managers."

For PSA, the need is compounded by planned new terminals at Tuas.

"Scania and Toyota were shortlisted based on the quality of their proposals and strong track records in both truck manufacturing and the development of self-driving technology," PSA says.

"Both companies will be working to develop technologies to enable heavy vehicles to move in leader-follower formation, as well as to fully automate the processes for precise docking and undocking of cargo."

Trials will take place in two phases over a three-year period from this month to December 2019.

The 10-km test route along West Coast Highway has been designated for the phase 2 trials.

The trials will initially involve inter-terminal haulage between Brani Terminal and Pasir Panjang Terminals, and may eventually be scaled up for haulage within the port area, as well as between Pasir Panjang Terminals and Tuas Port.

The first phase, lasting about a year, will focus on designing, testing and refining the truck platooning technology to adapt to local conditions.

The trials will be conducted by Scania and Toyota in their respective research centres in Sweden and Japan, to leverage their existing development work.

"Depending on the outcomes of the phase 1 trials, MOT and PSA Corporation will then select one of the companies for phase 2, which will consist of local trials and some development of the technology in Singapore," it says.

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