MAN Truck & Bus has successfully completed the joint project Hamburg TruckPilot along with partner Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA).
It’s considered an important milestone by the two companies involved for the use of self-driving trucks in port terminals for container transport.
The objective of the three-year project, which was also part of the strategic mobility partnership between the City of Hamburg and Volkswagen AG, included the development and practical testing of an autonomous truck in container handling at the HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA).
During the practical trips, the logistics partner, Spedition Jakob Weets e.K. from Emden, first transported 40-foot 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. It drove to its destination in the block storage lane and also manoeuvred itself backwards with high precision into the parking position.
After container handling, the return journey to the check gate was just as autonomous, and beyond the terminal grounds, the driver of the Jakob Weets e.K. haulage company once again took full command.
The results were presented by MAN Truck & Bus together with HHLA at the ITS World Congress in October.
“Pilot projects like Hamburg TruckPilot prove that the use of self-driving trucks is technologically feasible and can be efficiently integrated into logistics processes,” said Dr. Frederik Zohm, MAN Board Member for Research and Development.
“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 from 2030,” he said.
HHLA CEO Angela Titzrath said cooperation with MAN remains an important and necessary step in shaping the future of freight transport.
“Autonomous driving is coming. We at HHLA are preparing for this. Logistics 4.0 offers opportunities on a global scale,” she said.
“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.”
The HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder was considered an ideal test environment for trying out promising technologies as the facilities operate 24/7 around the clock, 360 days a year.
That being said, the safe integration of autonomous trucks into the terminal processes is a major challenge, given autonomous and classic transports are intermingled.
Under the conditions of the Hamburg TruckPilot, both parties were able to show that the application is possible and promising in practice.
Satisfied with the results of the practical tests in the Port of Hamburg, Sebastian Völl, MAN Truck & Bus Project Manager — Hamburg TruckPilot, called it an important milestone for autonomous driving.
“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,” he said.
“When the first container with a real load lifted off the chassis during the practical drives, I was super proud of the entire team! We can build on this experience for future projects.”