The Trucks of Tomorrow: Safe, Climate-Friendly and Networked

3rd DEKRA Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference in Berlin

At the third DEKRA Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference in Berlin (November 19/20, 2019), experts and professionals from the fields of politics, industry, research and transport discussed the potential of innovative technologies for commercial vehicles and telematics. The presentations and panel discussions focused in particular on subjects such as active safety, automated driving, intelligent networking, e-mobility, CO2 reduction, digitization and telematics.

Logistics industry facing immense challenges
Automation, digitization and CO2 reduction still megatrends
Electrification of heavy commercial vehicles on the advance
Vehicle safety must be guaranteed throughout life cycle
The rapid technological development in the commercial vehicle industry in recent years makes it plain to see: Trucks have come a long way from their negative image as loud, air-polluting, accident-causing vehicles. Manufacturers and suppliers alike have contributed to this with a large number of innovations. Yet despite all the progress, the commercial vehicle industry still faces major challenges that will define processes and investment decisions at transport and logistics companies for years to come – for instance with regard to automated driving, digitization, networking or alternative drive systems. The third DEKRA Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference clearly set out the driving forces within the industry. Over two days and before an audience of around 300 guests, renowned speakers from the worlds of politics, business and science discussed where there is the greatest need for action for ongoing sustainable optimization in efficiency, climate and road safety.
“Our Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference this year again looks at the megatrends that will largely define the road transport of goods in the years ahead,” said Jann Fehlauer, Managing Director of DEKRA Automobil GmbH, in his opening address. The broad range of subjects made it clear why the congress has become established as the top central platform for discussing all aspects of the safety and future viability of commercial vehicles.
Ambitious CO2 reduction targets
On the subject of climate change, participants at the congress agreed that all players must pull together to achieve the EU’s ambitious targets. According to the EU Commission’s resolutions, trucks must cut their CO2 emissions by 15% by 2025 and by as much as 30% by 2030. “We would have hoped for more realistic targets, but the ones we have are now law and we must comply,” explained Dr. Kurt-Christian Scheel, Managing Director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He called on politicians to improve the funding options for alternative drive commercial vehicles and also to invest in a suitable charging infrastructure on a massive scale.
In turn, Steffen Bilger, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport, reiterated that the government stands by the climate targets, which in his opinion are achievable. He went on to say that the government would be launching a number of funding programs for future mobility in the next few years. “Moreover, we are also currently in the process of developing a national hydrogen strategy that is to be brought to the Cabinet in December 2019.”
Speakers at the congress presented a number of strategies on the subject of climate protection and reducing CO2 emissions. Among others, Winfried Gründler, Senior Vice President of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, spoke about the electrification of commercial vehicles. In his presentation, Andreas Wimmer, Vice President for Systems/Vehicle Technologies at Knorr-Bremse Systeme für Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH, talked about e-mobility and lightweight construction. The potential of gas-powered trucks and fuel-saving trailer technologies were also on the agenda in Berlin.
Efficient protection in right-turn accidents
On the side of the politicians, in his keynote address Steffen Bilger also discussed the road safety of commercial vehicles and delivered harsh words for the EU on the subject of turning assistance. This is because turning assistance will not become mandatory for new truck models until 2022 onwards, and for all new trucks from 2024. “We would have preferred a much earlier date, and are pleased to see any transport company that already orders this system for its vehicles today, thereby contributing to the protection of cyclists and pedestrians, especially when turning right,” said the Parliamentary State Secretary.
The fact that turning assistance can significantly increase safety for unprotected road users was supported by the comments on the solution from Mercedes-Benz Trucks and the retrofit solutions available from companies such as Luis Technology or Wüllhorst Fahrzeugbau and Edeka Südbayern. Dieter Schoch from Daimler AG took this opportunity to announce that Mercedes-Benz has recently begun offering the turning assistant available ex works since 2016 as a retrofit solution for a number of models in the Actros, Arocs or Econic series as well. Schoch also promised that the fifth generation Active Brake Assist with pedestrian detection will be fitted in all new Actros and Arocs trucks in Europe as standard from January 2020.
Automated driving: Challenges for vehicle inspections
Given that almost 90% of all road accidents are due to human error, driver assistance systems and automated driving functions offer huge safety potential by preventing human error or reducing its consequences. “Naturally, it has to be guaranteed in this context that the systems are comprehensively tested in the course of their development and in the context of type approval,” noted DEKRA Managing Director Jann Fehlauer in Berlin. Also, the systems would have to work reliably throughout the vehicle’s entire lifecycle, which means that it has to be possible to test them in periodic inspections. In the digital age, this can only be done on the basis of direct and independent access to the relevant inspection data and diagnostic functions in the vehicle, emphasized Fehlauer.
Value added through intelligent telematics
At the congress, industry and research experts and professionals also took a very close look at the current situation and ongoing developments in telematics systems in towing vehicles and trailers. In particular, this focused on the benefits for logistics and transport companies in terms of logistics, controlling and cost efficiency.
Prof. Heinz-Leo Dudek, Dean of the Faculty of Technology at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University in Ravensburg (Friedrichshafen campus), sees telematics as the trendsetter in the digitization of transport and logistics. In commercial vehicles, it will converge with the Internet of Things in the medium term. In his opinion, transparency plays a key role in all these processes. As Prof. Dudek explained, digitization in the transport sector has already reached a very advanced stage. However, he went on to add that when it comes to big data, the sharing economy, for instance in the form of digital switching platforms, has not yet been sufficiently grasped. “Also, the fragmented provider landscape means that the various systems have to be standardized.”