26. October 2023 | Press releases:

Autonomous truck sets course for motorway ATLAS-L4 funding project records important milestones

  • Sensor vehicle already collecting data on motorway
  • Technical foundation laid for autonomous driving control centre
  • First automated motorway test drives to take place this year

The driverless truck is gradually becoming a reality: Since January 2022, MAN Truck & Bus, Knorr-Bremse, Leoni, Bosch, Fernride, BTC Embedded Systems, Fraunhofer AISEC, Technische Universität München, Technische Universität Braunschweig, TÜV SÜD, Autobahn GmbH and Würzburg Institute of Transport Sciences (WIVW GmbH) have been working together on the research and development project ATLAS-L4 (Automated Transport between Logistics Centres on Level 4 Expressways) to put autonomous trucks on the road. The project is based on the 2021 law on autonomous driving, which in principle allows autonomous driving on defined routes under technical supervision. After the first 22 months, the project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, has already reached important milestones.

“ATLAS-L4 will soon be the first autonomous truck on a German motorway,” says Dr. Frederik Zohm, Executive Board Member for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus, describing the common goal of the twelve ATLAS-L4 project partners. “In this way we want to contribute to hub-to-hub automation, i.e. driverless commuting between logistics yards, and thus to more safety, more efficiency and less congestion on the roads – the driver shortage can also be countered with automation concepts”.

What has been achieved since the start of the project?

The partners jointly presented the results of their work to date at a project event in Munich on 24 October.

For example, MAN Truck & Bus, which is responsible for the overall development of the system, has now built a prototype vehicle. It is equipped with sensors on the roof, front and sides of the driver’s cab, as well as integrated computers. It will initially be used as a sensor vehicle to collect data before the functional development of autonomous driving begins, including initial test drives on the motorway with a safety driver. The vehicle has already successfully completed its first kilometres on MAN’s Munich test track. Functionalities and interfaces were put to the test: for the first time the components communicated with each other and for the first time the sensors detected a realistic environment.

The safety-related subsystems for the Level 4 architecture, such as the electrical system, steering and redundant braking system, have also been designed and successfully tested in the first prototypes.

This is another milestone to which the project team has already added a tick: In September, the control centre for technical monitoring was successfully commissioned and connected to the vehicle. The web interface now displays the vehicle on a map with all relevant information such as speed and automation status.

In addition, MAN and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security AISEC successfully carried out the project-accompanying risk analysis for the vehicle. On this basis, cyber security measures such as authentic and encrypted communication and functional security measures such as redundancies and degradation concepts were defined for the autonomous driving system. Extensive attack and failure scenarios are run through and appropriate protection concepts are developed.

photo: MAN Truck & Bus SE

The next steps

The next major milestone is the debut on public roads: the test vehicle is expected to make its first motorway journeys before the end of the year – with a safety driver on board, of course.

All of these milestones contribute to the long-term goal of ATLAS-L4: to prove that the use of Level 4 automated and thus driverless vehicles on motorways is feasible. This is the cornerstone for future series applications for a Logistics 4.0 – made possible by the network of the strong ATLAS-L4 consortium. The project will run until December 2024, at the end of which there should be an industry-ready concept for the operation of automated trucks on motorways.