HHLA Completes Autonomous-Truck Trials

Courtesy MAN / HHLA

Published Oct 14, 2021 7:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hamburg's port authority, Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), has wrapped up a pioneering three-year trial of automated drayage in partnership with MAN Truck & Bus. The test successfully demonstrated an autonomous driving system that could interface with manned trucks and port operations. 

The test centered on operations at HHLA's Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA). In each run, drayage operator Spedition Jakob Weets e.K. delivered a purpose-built truck with a real, laden 40-foot box to the CTA terminal in Hamburg. On arrival at the gate, the truck would switch to autonomous mode and navigate through the terminal area on its own, sharing the road with manned vehicles. It would drive to a specified location in a storage area and reverse into a designated parking spot. The terminal's equipment would hoist off the container for stacking, and the truck would return to the gate. Once past the gate, the human driver would take control once again, and the cycle would repeat.

"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," said Till Schlumberger, a project manager at HHLA.

The next step may be to test out autonomous driving on the 40-mile stretch of road between Weets' container depot and the CTA terminal. Germany recently passed a new law that legalizes point-to-point autonomous trucking between two terminals - so long as a technical supervisor is watching. For shippers and container terminal operators, autonomous trucks could offer a way out of the driver shortages that are hampering supply chain movement today. For drivers, an automated truck that moves itself around the terminal means the opportunity for a rest break. 

"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."