Hamburg Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and MAN Truck & Bus have successfully completed the Hamburg TruckPilot, which saw the development and practical testing of an autonomous truck.
Part of the strategic mobility partnership between the City of Hamburg and Volkswagen AG, the three-year project saw trials conducted at HHLA’s Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA).
Frederik Zohm, MAN board member for research and development, said: “Pilot projects like Hamburg TruckPilot prove that the use of self-driving trucks is technologically feasible and can be efficiently integrated into the logistics processes.
“Autonomous driving will be a game changer in transportation. In close cooperation with customers and partners, we are testing practical automation solutions with the aim of getting self-driving trucks ready for series production in 2033.”
During the practical trips, logistics partner Spedition Jakob Weets e.K first transported 40 ft containers controlled by a driver on behalf of Volkswagen Group Logistics to the CTA terminal in the Port of Hamburg.
There the truck drove autonomously across the terminal area and moved smoothly in mixed traffic with other road users, drove in the block storage lane and manoeuvred itself backwards with high precision into parking position.
After container handling, the return journey to the check gate was also autonomous and, beyond the terminal grounds, the driver of the Jakob Weets e.K haulage company once again took full command.
Till Schlumberger, project manager at HHLA responsible for Hamburg TruckPilot, said: “With its highly automated processes, HHLA CTA is the ideal test environment is the for trying out promising technologies.
“Our facilities operate 24/7 around the clock, 360 days a year. However, the safe integration of autonomous trucks into the terminal processes is a major challenge, because autonomous and classic transports are intermingled. With Hamburg TruckPilot, we were able to show that this application is possible and promising in practice.”
In July 2021, the Federal Republic of Germany became the first country ever to pass a law on autonomous driving.
This regulates and generally permits the use of autonomous vehicles (Level 4) in defined operational areas, such as traffic between logistics terminals.
For freight transport, autonomous trucks have the potential to make transport more efficient, cost-effective, reliable, sustainable and safer.
In order to drive automation forward, MAN plans to successfully launch further cooperation projects for the development of autonomous hub-to-hub transport.
Sebastian Völl, project manager Hamburg TruckPilot at MAN Truck & Bus, said: “When our prototype manoeuvred independently into a block storage lane for the first time, we saw that it worked and that we can meet the high accuracy requirements.
“And even driving across the terminal site with many other manually controlled trucks, sensor technology, environment detection and automation systems have mastered the interaction perfectly.”
With a view to autonomous driving between different logistics hubs in hub-to-hub traffic, the partners have already collected valuable data on the manual feeder trips on the A7 between the Weets Container Terminal Soltau and the port area 70 km away.
Further-reaching projects with practical drives on public roads will also benefit from this and such practical tests, which are always accompanied by safety drivers, will be possible outside closed areas thanks to the autonomous driving law in Germany.
HHLA CEO Angela Titzrath said: “Autonomous driving is coming! We at HHLA are preparing for this. Logistics 4.0 offers opportunities on a global scale.
“To use them, we have to be open to change and show the courage to change. Autonomous driving and Hamburg TruckPilot are good examples of transformative processes that we want to actively shape.”