The ATLAS-L4 (Automated Transport between Logistics centers on highways, Level 4) research and development project combines expertise from industry, scientific research and infrastructure operators in hitherto unique ways to create an integrated approach to the operation of autonomous vehicles on public motorways and highways. ATLAS-L4 intends to demonstrate that the use of Level-4 automated and thus driverless vehicles on the highway is feasible, laying the foundation for innovative transport and logistics concepts. The project makes direct use of the new opportunities opened up by the legislation on autonomous driving passed in 2021, in which Germany is set to hold a worldwide pioneering position. In this way, ATLAS-L4 contributes both to the future-proof design of road freight transport and to strengthening Germany as a business location.
The overarching aim of the project, funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is to use autonomous driving between logistics hubs on the motorway to make an effective contribution towards the avoidance of congestion and accidents, to operate vehicles with greater fuel efficiency and to counteract the shortfall of drivers by eliminating the less attractive driving tasks.
Trucks are essential for the transport of goods all around the world, but the sector is under pressure: In Germany alone, traffic jams cause billions of euros in economic damage every year, around 90 percent of road accidents are the result of human error, and a lack of drivers is halting growth for many companies. The BGL (German Freight and Logistics Association) reports that there is a shortage of around 60,000 professional freight drivers in Germany today. Although around 17,000 new drivers join the profession each year, around 30,000 professional drivers retire, with the result that the problem will worsen significantly.
Self-driving trucks can provide a solution. They can certainly improve road safety, reduce congestion with forward planning and optimize operating hours. At the same time, self-driving trucks drive more evenly, making them more fuel-efficient and therefore more environmentally friendly. Automated processes throughout the supply chain – for example at depots, at transshipment points or between logistics centers – relieve the burden on drivers and can help to make truck driving a more attractive career prospect. That’s good for the profession, good for society, good for the companies and, last but not least, good for the environment – a multiple win-win situation.
With ATLAS-L4, those involved in the project are taking a huge step towards making autonomous commercial vehicles a reality. By the middle of the decade, a concept for the operation of automated trucks on the highway that can be transferred to industrialization should be available. Each partner brings its own expertise to the development of the driverless prototype truck.
Project partners and roles
Commercial vehicle manufacturer MAN Truck & Bus is responsible for overall system development and the integration of all components into the vehicle. The transmission of data to the vehicle and commissioning of the control center that will provide the technical monitoring of the test runs as specified in the legislation on self-driving vehicles are also MAN’s responsibility.
Knorr-Bremse, the global market leader for braking systems, is developing a special, redundant braking system architecture which will enable trucks with Level-4-autonomy to operate safely in any situation.
Project partner Leoni’s task is to ensure that both the onboard network and the electronic cable distribution for the automation system always work reliably, regardless of any possible faults that may occur.
Bosch Automotive Steering is developing an error-tolerant steering system for ATLAS-L4 that meets all the requirements of SAE-Level-4-automation.
Munich-based start-up Fernride is researching teleoperation possibilities in the hub-to-hub-scenario addressed by the project. With Fernride’s teleoperations platform, autonomous vehicles can be monitored and controlled remotely if necessary.
The test tool manufacturer BTC Embedded Systems AG concentrates on scenario-based and simulated test procedures for whole-vehicle verification and safety validation, paying special attention to critical driving situations.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security AISEC is developing methods for security risk analyses within the project, specially tailored to the field of automated trucks.
The TUM Institute of Automotive Technology is contributing its expertise in a variety of aspects of driving dynamics and developing interaction concepts for technical supervision.
The Institute of Control Engineering at the TU Braunschweig is developing concepts for the safe operation of Level-4-trucks and the technical self-awareness of automated vehicles.
TÜV SÜD will bring its extensive experience of test environments for automated vehicles to the project test runs, examining the capabilities of the vehicles themselves and the validity of the simulations and evaluating the safety of the vehicles in this sponsorship project as part of the approval process.
With the introduction of its first cooperative “roadworks warning” service, Autobahn GmbH has laid the foundations for the networked and automated traffic system of the future and contributes its experience regarding the requirements for automated driving to the ATLAS-L4 project from the roads operator’s point of view.