In Ulm Dornstadt, Deutsche Bahn, MAN Truck & Bus, Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and Götting KG are shaping the digital future with the ANITA project: fully automated trucks will run independently at the container depot operated by DB Intermodal Services and the DUSS terminal (Deutsche Umschlaggesellschaft Schiene-Straße mbH) in the future. Combined transport can then be organised more efficiently and more flexibly. This will create the incentive for even more climate-friendly rail transport.
Combined transport – linking road, rail and / or water – is one of the strongest growth markets in freight transport overall. The ANITA project is another important building block on the road to the automation of the entire transport process. The aim of the “Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations” project, known as ANITA, is to enable vehicles to be used more flexibly by managing the container handling process more efficiently and disassociating it from the truck drivers’ driving times and rest periods. ANITA is backed by € 5.5 million in funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action's "New Vehicle and System Technologies" programme. The scheme runs for 39 months.
MAN Truck & Bus SE is developing the vehicle for the project: working with our partners, we will gather valuable experience with autonomous vehicles in container handling on a terminal site. After our platooning project with DB Schenker AG and Hochschule Fresenius, which has already proven successful, ANITA represents the next major step on the path towards automated vehicles in hub-to-hub applications – another milestone on our MAN automation roadmap,” says Dr Frederik Zohm, executive board member responsible for research and development at MAN Truck & Bus.
The fully automated trucks will be used at the Ulm Dornstadt site. They will move around the DB Intermodal Services and DUSS terminal autonomously, although they will have a MAN safety driver on board for the test phase. The first task at the site is to set up the digital infrastructure and all the necessary interfaces, so that operations can be evaluated under real-world conditions.
Götting KG develops algorithms to track the vehicle and identify obstacles. Director Hans-Heinrich Götting, says: “The ANITA project will take our environmental perception to a completely new level from a full automation perspective. Working with key partners in a real environment is tremendously important for Götting KG.”
To ensure communication between the truck and the terminal or container depot, the first job was to analyse how people and machines behave on the terminal site so as to then transfer them into digital processes and rules. This was taken care of by Hochschule Fresenius: “Analysing processes in complex systems is part of our tradition,” says Professor Dr Christian T. Haas, director of the Institute for Complex System Research at Hochschule Fresenius. “The challenge in this project is not only to understand system behaviour, but to transfer this into a digital concept that the machines can work with. The top priority there is safety, although performance aspects are also important for the rollout process.” To guarantee this, a digital contract language (CSL – Contract Specification Language) created by the experts at Deon Digital is used, which ensures that processes run exactly as planned (making unwanted repetition of processes or freezes impossible).
ANITA – the film
Within the ANITA project though, logistics processes are structured innovatively too. “Both digitisation and automation are decisive factors in the further development of terminal operations. They make it possible to carry out transportation faster, more efficiently and more predictably and to increase the capacity of existing infrastructure,” explains Andreas Schulz, managing director of DUSS. “It is also important to embed autonomous trucks into our communication processes and terminal management systems,” adds Michael Heinemann, managing director of DB IS. “Digital system control allows the driverless truck to be integrated smoothly into the terminal's logistical processes,” says Professor Haas, making it clear that the background to this project is essential for all further steps.
On the basis of the experience gained in Ulm, Hochschule Fresenius is developing further simulation approaches to allow quantitative estimations of which digitalisation and automation scenarios could be used at other terminals and under which conditions. The better this goes, the more target-oriented the planning of the roll-out scenarios can be.
ANITA – how it works
"If a scientist and a programmer meet ..." This is not the start of a joke, but an important milestone in the ANITA project (Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations), which aims to achieve a fully automated truck in terminal operations at the DB Intermodal Services container depot and the DUSS terminal in Ulm Dornstadt, Germany: the project partners Hochschule Fresenius and service provider Deon Digital, met in Copenhagen in the fall of 2021 to bring their two worlds together - the results of the scientific on-site analyses and the programming code that emerged from them. Practical research becomes theoretical "0-1 number series": Just like an architect and engineer discussing a joint construction project, the researchers and IT experts successfully discussed this transformation for days. What the creative process in Denmark brought and why even miniature trucks from MAN were used in the process, you will soon find out here in a detailed interview with Professor Dr. Christian T. Haas from Hochschule Fresenius and Anselm Pilz from Deon Digital.
From large corporations to university research: The diversity among project partners made ANITA possible in the first place. Find out more about the individual partners:
Deutsche Bahn AG is involved in the ANITA project through its DB Netze and DB Cargo divisions, or more precisely, the companies DUSS and DB Intermodal Services.
DUSS (Deutsche Umschlaggesellschaft Schiene-Straße) is Germany’s largest inland terminal operator for intermodal rail-road transport. It operates, plans and builds transhipment terminals and a “rolling road” facility at the interface of different transport modes. With an average transhipment volume of around 2.2 million intermodal transport units per annum, DUSS turns over almost € 70 million in a financial year.
DB Intermodal Services specialises in complementary transport services for combined transport. It offers an extensive portfolio of transport services such as the provision of load and empty depots in Germany, the operation of transhipment terminals and the repair, cleaning and maintenance of containers. DB Intermodal Services is responsible for around 3,000 container movements every day, with total annual turnover of € 67 million.
Götting KG, founded in 1965, is an innovative company with a worldwide presence and headquarters in Lehrte, near Hanover. We develop and produce radio data transmission systems and sensors for lane guidance in driverless transport vehicles. We have the world’s most extensive range of driverless vehicle components.
Hochschule Fresenius is where tradition and innovation meet. Digital transformation, demographic change or skills shortages – we understand what moves people, society and the economy. Research is essential, which is reflected in a variety of highly developed lines of research.
At the Institute for Complex System Research, the stability and changes of different systems are examined, currently with a focus on the digitalisation and automation of transport systems. Alongside the mathematical description of systems and the development of software solutions, activities predominantly include the neuropsychological analysis of human-technology interactions.
MAN Truck & Bus is one of Europe's leading commercial vehicle manufacturers and transport solution providers, with an annual revenue of just under 11 billion euros (2021). The company's product portfolio includes vans, trucks, buses/coaches and diesel and gas engines along with services related to passenger and cargo transport. MAN Truck & Bus is a company of TRATON GROUP and employs more than 34,000 people worldwide.
Autonomous commercial vehicles will result in a radical transformation of our customers’ business models – automation is a game changer. That is why MAN is collaborating with research and business partners to develop and test automated driving applications. The interplay of automation, digitalization, and electromobility is turning MAN into a provider of smart and sustainable transport solutions.
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