MAN: First autonomous truck on the motorway

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MAN has become the first commercial vehicle manufacturer to send an autonomous truck onto the German motorway. On board of the test truck, which drove around ten kilometres on the A9 between the Allershausen and Fürholzen junctions, were Federal Transport Minister Dr Volker Wissing and MAN CEO Alexander Vlaskamp.

MAN has been intensively driving forward the development of autonomous trucks for use in logistics hubs and for hub-to-hub traffic on motorways for some time and recently became the first commercial vehicle manufacturer to receive a Level 4 test permit based on the law on autonomous driving on German motorways.

Freight volumes and, in particular, transport between logistics hubs – such as the warehouses of large online department stores – are growing steadily. The use of autonomous trucks in this so-called hub-to-hub transport is particularly suitable for this. The trucks are always on the road, extremely efficient in terms of consumption and safe to drive. There are no driving time breaks, so the vehicles can be perfectly integrated into tightly synchronised logistics processes. In the long term, the efficient use of autonomous trucks can reduce overall operating costs by ten to 15 per cent. The new technology can also alleviate the driver shortage. There is already a shortage of up to 100,000 truck drivers in Germany alone.

”The first Level 4 test drive of an autonomous truck on a German motorway proves that Germany has taken a leading position in Europe with the law on autonomous driving. Our goal is to become the leading market for automated and connected driving. Today is a milestone for logistics in Germany. The ever-increasing volume of transport, coupled with the worsening shortage of drivers, is a challenge for society as a whole. Autonomous trucks can help to alleviate the situation. In addition, the intelligent networking of freight transport offers the opportunity to make transhipment from road to rail more efficient and thus strengthen climate-friendly combined transport”, says Dr Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport.

“Today we are taking another big step towards autonomous commercial vehicles, the second major future field alongside the switch to CO2-free drives. This year, we are initially running tests with prototypes on the motorway. Further hub-to-hub projects will follow from 2025, but then in typical customer applications. We are thus taking the next development step towards series production of autonomous trucks towards the end of the decade. The law on autonomous driving gives our industry the necessary planning security. To realise autonomous driving, however, we also need to work closely with infrastructure operators such as Autobahn GmbH. Only together can we put autonomous driving on the road,” says Alexander Vlaskamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of MAN Truck & Bus SE.

“Autobahn GmbH des Bundes plays a central role in autonomous driving on German motorways,” explains Dirk Brandenburger, Technical Managing Director of Autobahn GmbH des Bundes. “We not only approve autonomous driving on certain motorway sections, but also actively promote networking and communication between motorway infrastructure and vehicles with so-called cooperative intelligent transport systems. This is of crucial importance for the authorisation and therefore the safety of autonomous vehicles on the road.”

For the test drive of the first autonomous truck, Autobahn GmbH examined MAN’s concept as part of the application for a test licence before the Federal Motor Transport Authority officially granted MAN approval at the beginning of April. In future, Autobahn GmbH will also be responsible for approving operating areas on motorways for the series approval of autonomous vehicles. The vehicle operator specifies the routes on which its vehicles with autonomous driving functions are to drive, and Autobahn GmbH then checks whether these routes are suitable for the operation of these vehicles with autonomous driving functions.