Volkswagen Truck and Bus gets ready for the electric, autonomus future

Volkswagen Truck and Bus gets ready for the electric, autonomus future

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Volkswagen Truck & Bus bundles the resources of its brands in the development process to avoid duplication of work. The concept of lead engineering plays a central role in this process. Each brand is assigned responsibility for a joint development project.

Volkswagen Truck and Bus wants to take the road to an autonomous truck in the urban metropolitan area via a large number of steps: from the automated security vehicle in motorway construction sites to the autonomous dump truck in the mine, from the autonomously operating tractor in a port terminal to the platoon in long-distance traffic on the motorway. Platooning with vehicles of the MAN and Scania brands are being tested throughout Europe. With the help of slipstream driving, fuel consumption on the motorway can thus be significantly reduced. The risk of accidents decreases, the drivers of the following trucks have time for other activities, but can take control of the vehicle at any time. MAN, in cooperation with logistics company DB Schenker, will be testing the first platoons on the A9 digital test field between Munich and Nuremberg from spring 2018. Scania is participating in a platooning project in Singapore, where platoons are to be transported via public roads between two port terminals. Platooning is seen by VW as an entry into automated driving on public roads. The next step will be to make cross-brand truck convoy journeys possible. Scania and MAN are to develop common standards.

Volkswagen Truck & Bus cooperates with Volkswagen Group Research to make automated driving functional for public roads – including autonomous driving on level 5. The “Fellow Truck” project is successively integrating components of artificial intelligence into the vehicles. The aim is to be able to offer customers fully automatic transport of goods and people in the public space in concrete products within a few years. This is intended to make a contribution to improving traffic flow and road safety. Autonomous driving on public roads, however, requires a change in the legal framework and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure, the company pointed out.

Scania’s fully autonomous vehicles are already ready for use in the mining industry – the first truck will be delivered to a customer in the coming weeks. MAN is also working together with seven partners in the “aFAS” research project on an autonomous truck. In Germany, for the first time a driverless, automatic MAN truck is being used as a security vehicle for mobile motorway construction sites.

VW has also realized that digitization will fundamentally change the world of logistics. The company is therefore pushing ahead with connecting of transport along the entire value-added chain and across all modes of transport. The task and goal is to digitally link the entire supply chain in order to achieve maximum efficiency. To this end, the company has developed the open, cloud-based platform RIO, which connects all players in the value chain. Algorithms process data from numerous process steps in real time and serve as a basis for better decisions. The RIO platform and digital RIO services will be available later this year. Tests are currently underway at 20 MAN customers with mixed fleets. A total of more than 100 vehicles from Germany, France, Denmark, Great Britain and Poland will take part.

The platform links services such as vehicle tracking, driver communication, vehicle operation and efficiency analyses, digital maintenance management, tachograph data and other advanced logistics services and makes them available online. MAN is the first OEM partner to equip its EURO VI vehicles with RIO connectivity ex works since August.

Increasing exchange of goods, growing cities, booming online trade: against this backdrop, alternative drives are becoming increasingly important as they help to improve air quality in the metropolitan regions. Great progress is currently being made in the field of alternative drives. The transport on the so-called last mile will be electric: transporters that deliver parcels to retailers and end customers. With the eCrafter, VW’s commercial vehicle division has developed transporters with a range of up to 200 km, which will be delivered to selected customers in 2017.

Volkswagen Truck & Bus is also working on electrical solutions for medium and heavy-duty distribution traffic as well as for city buses and intends to offer a complete range of electric vehicles for the European market in the near future. Their e-architecture will be based on the common e-drivetrain. This electric powertrain is designed to be a modular module that can be used universally to power future distributor trucks and city buses of Volkswagen Truck & Bus brands. Navistar, a strategic partner in the United States, will also be making use of this technology and will offer an electric distribution truck from the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020. MAN is already active in distribution transport with an electric truck. At the end of 2017, the first nine fully electric powered trucks are to be handed over to customers as test vehicles.

As of next year, MAN and Scania will be testing pre-series versions of a battery-electric city bus (BEV) in several European cities under everyday conditions. Series production of these electric buses is scheduled to start before 2020.

Solutions are also being tested to electrify heavy trucks in other ways so that their range and payload become suitable for long-distance traffic. e-Road” is the buzzword for this development, which is based on overhead lines in the same way as rail transport. In overhead line operation, the truck can move locally emission-free and also recharge its batteries for a certain number of further emission-free kilometres. A test track for electric Scania trucks already exists in Sweden. Test tracks have also been announced in Germany.


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