Get out of the truck, driver

Ma­noeu­vring a rig with the tip of your fin­ger soon will be a re­al­ity

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

GER­MAN com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers ZF and Bosch have re­vealed a joint project, the re­mote-con­trolled In­no­va­tion Truck.

This 25-me­tre-long com­bi­na­tion looks like any other but its cut­ting edge com­po­nents in­clude a fea­ture that al­lows the driver to con­trol it from the out­side.

The new tech­nol­ogy is not de­signed for high-speed driv­ing but is aimed at help­ing driv­ers pick­ing up or de­liv­er­ing a load.

Re­vers­ing a sin­gle or dou­ble trailer is not an easy task for any but the most ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers and the two com­pa­nies aim to help.

“The ma­noeu­vring as­sis­tant in the In­no­va­tion Truck com­pletely re­lieves the driver of this steer­ing work and much more,” says ZF project man­ager Ol­rik Wein­mann.

“They can get out and move the tractor-trailer to the ex­act po­si­tion re­quired with only small fin­ger move­ments and us­ing a spe­cial tablet app.”

Steer­ing the truck re­motely is made eas­ier thanks to the use of ZF’s Ser­votwin steer­ing, which nor­mally uses hy­draulic steer­ing, as­sisted by an elec­tric mo­tor mounted on the steer­ing col­umn that also fil­ters out jolts and tugs driv­ers nor­mally feel.

Volvo has a sim­i­lar setup in its FM and FH trucks in Aus­tralia, although it can’t be op­er­ated re­motely.

ZF fits the Ser­votwin with an ad­di­tional con­trol mod­ule for re­mote steer­ing. An elec­tro­hy­draulic pump al­lows the truck to be steered with­out tak­ing power from the diesel en­gine.

This was an im­por­tant part of the In­no­va­tion Truck de­sign, as ZF and Bosch wanted it to be able to op­er­ate at low speeds while pro­duc­ing no emis­sions.

ZF fit­ted the truck with the hy­brid ver­sion of its TraXon au­to­matic. An elec­tric mo­tor (120kW/1000Nm) in the bell hous­ing pro­pels the truck in full elec­tric mode at low speed.

ZF says there is enough juice in the bat­tery to com­plete sev­eral low-speed ma­noeu­vres in the elec­tric mode. It cites the dual ad­van­tages in de­pots and pub­lic spa­ces — no lo­cal ex­haust emis­sions and no en­gine noise.

At the heart of the In­no­va­tion Truck is a com­plex con­trol ar­range­ment that uses low-en­ergy Blue­tooth tags fit­ted to the back of the cab and the trailer.

These have a range of 25m and con­nect with sen­sors to give the cen­tral con­trol unit the ex­act po­si­tion of the truck and trailer.

The driver’s app shows an over­head out­line of the truck and trailer and he steers the truck by slid­ing a fin­ger in the in­tended di­rec­tion of travel — if the fin­ger is not touch­ing the screen, the truck will stop.

Speeds vary from 1km/h to 4km/h for for­ward driv­ing and 0.5km/h to 2km/h for re­vers­ing.

The clever app also al­lows the driver to view how much charge re­mains in the bat­tery.

Aus­tralia al­ready has ex­pe­ri­ence with trucks that can be con­trolled re­motely.

Ko­matsu has dump trucks that can op­er­ate fully au­tonomously for much of the time at mine sites. A re­mote hu­man op­er­a­tor di­rects where they pick up and drop loads.

Handy: Driv­ers can park the ZF In­no­va­tion Truck re­motely from a hand­held app; (below) Ko­matsu’s “ul­tra-class” dump trucks work au­tonomously in Aus­tralian mines

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