- According to the Continental Mobility Study, the industry sees a need for action, particularly in matters of environmental protection
- Assistance systems are popular among drivers
- Experts believe that a technological breakthrough is imminent for slipstreaming via connected "platooning"
Hanover, September 2016. Comfort, convenience, safety, efficiency, conservation of resources – automated driving promises many benefits. Yet for the logistics industry, use of this technology is still a long way off. This is one of the key results of the Continental Mobility Study 2016. Although automated driving is definitely on the agenda in the transport industry, the sector's specific expectations tend to be linked to a particular sub-category of automated driving referred to as "platooning." With this system, multiple trucks can drive behind each other at very short distances with the aid of a technical control system – a sort of "electronic towbar" – and thereby save up to 15 percent fuel through the “slipstreaming” or drafting effect. This works because the trucks are wirelessly connected and communicate with each other. The vehicle at the front dictates the speed and the others follow.
Automated driving overall, however, is considered particularly important by only 26% of German logisticians (the figure is 33% for their Chinese colleagues). In Germany, 31% regard automated driving as attractive to drivers, while 35% agree in China. The drivers themselves express a clearly more skeptical view in Germany, with only 15% of German drivers saying that they see added value in automated driving. Only 9% of drivers express a desire for automated driving. Even in the face of the enormous pressure in the industry in terms of costs and competition, only 28% of logistics experts surveyed see automated driving as offering an opportunity for the sector. In China, however, the figure is almost half (47%).
For some experts, automated driving is "not far off now." "We already have partially automated driving, which means a considerable increase in efficiency." GPS-assisted cruise control and platooning are cited as examples. "We will have platooning relatively soon. This will also lead to better use of transport infrastructure and greater road safety, and may help with the acute lack of drivers," as one fleet manager confidently asserts. "Platooning is a major trend and we're investing in it; it is past the experimental stage."
Yet other experts are much more skeptical. "Platooning with an electronic towbar – I can't imagine that in practice. The liability issues are totally unresolved. The underlying legal structure has yet to be thought out. Legal structures are also important for the new relationship that will develop between the driver and the truck and the relationship between the automated vehicles themselves." As another fleet expert says in the study, "Solutions could come in the form of separate truck lanes on freeways, but that would necessitate changes to a lot of infrastructure conditions."
According to the study, the logistics experts consider “automation” as a concept applicable to the entire logistics chain: more space for loading on trucks without cabs; automated load planning with optimized weight distribution and load-securing; automated loading and unloading processes by means of integration of vehicles into the warehouse concept; accident prevention and practical long-haul management.
Even at innovation-focused companies, which are more likely to use software solutions for planning, monitoring, and optimizing work processes and are working on customizing their own services, the priority is solutions for environmental specifications and increased efficiency that can be made available promptly. The priority is "evolutionary" improvements and minor modifications that can be implemented quickly and pay off within a short space of time. These include, for example, fuel-saving technologies, advanced driver assistance systems, software solutions, and tire-pressure monitoring systems.
"As a general rule, I would say that everything that is technologically possible and available in passenger cars should be possible and available in trucks as well – from radar to automated brake functions. Everything that improves road safety," comments a logistics expert quoted in the study. The aim should be the best possible support for the driver through technology. "Advanced driver assistance systems are right at the top of the list. Not only that, but it should not be possible for the driver to deactivate them. Safety first," requests another participant in the study. "Maneuvering aids with vehicle surroundings monitoring, including for the trailer, with sensor solutions; this would make a lot more sense for truck operation than for passenger cars."
As users, two thirds of drivers value the dependability and user-friendliness of advanced driver assistance systems above all (66% each). It is striking that 72% of drivers with at least 30 years of professional experience would like more driver assistance systems.
With the "Mobility Study 2016 – The Connected Truck,” the leading technology company Continental is presenting what is now its fourth mobility study. The market and social research institute (infas) surveyed logisticians, forwarding agents, fleet operators, and long-haul drivers in Germany and China. The focus was on the challenges faced by the logistics sector as a result of digitalization and connectivity.
Facts and figures regarding automation
- Approximately 56% of logisticians aim to invest in logistics software in 2016.
- Forecasts project that the global market volume for advanced driver assistance systems will total €16 billion by 2019. The figure was €5 billion in 2012.
- Of respondents in Germany, 8% believe that autonomous vehicles will become established within the next ten years. The figure is 33% in the U.S.A.
- Of car drivers 44% indicate that innovative driver assistance systems are important to them in purchasing their (private) cars.
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