Volkswagen’s truck division will spend about half a billion euros by the end of the decade to enhance digital features of heavy-goods vehicles as truckmakers increase their focus on automation in road haulage, it said on Monday (4 April).
German rival Daimler has been at the forefront of self-driving truck proponents, citing improvements in driver safety and fuel efficiency while predicting the technology to overcome legal hurdles in road freight transport.
European manufacturers are increasingly turning to digitisation and automated features as a way to cut trucks’ C02 emissions.
Currently, there is no EU-wide standard on CO2 emissions from trucks. The Dutch Council Presidency is organising a truck ‘platooning’ experiment on 7 April that will bring trucks with semi-autonomous functions to Rotterdam.
Volkswagen (VW), which started to beef up its truck operations before its emissions scandal broke last September, is pushing digitalisation and new mobility technologies as part of efforts to reposition itself and overcome the scandal.
VW’s Truck & Bus group said it would spend a “mid-range three-digit million-euro amount” over the next five years on digital features as it aims to improve communication of on-board sensors with automatic braking and other systems.
There are virtually “no limits” to what technology can achieve to reduce CO2 emissions from trucks, says Niklas Gustafsson from the Volvo group. What will eventually hold back progress in cutting emissions are wider societal factors, he claims.
MAN, part of VW’s trucks division with Swedish subsidiary Scania, is using an event in Munich on Monday to demonstrate the feasibility of truck “platooning”, in which a human-driven truck is followed in convoy by other semi-automated trucks.
MAN has said platooning could help reduce diesel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in road freight transport by as much as 10%.
“The future truck is fully connected, that provides a gain in safety and efficiency,” VW trucks chief Andreas Renschler said.
However, investment in infrastructure need to keep pace for some of the new technology to work.
“In future it will no longer be enough to build roads and repair bridges,” said Renschler. “What we need as quickly as possible is mobile high-speed internet alongside the road.”
Semi-autonomous ‘platoons’ of trucks from around Europe will travel to Rotterdam in early April as part of an experiment backed by the Dutch Council presidency.
US regulators found that Volkswagen designed software for close to half a million diesel cars that gave false emissions data during the laboratory tests. Experts consider that tests on the road are more difficult to be cheated.
In Europe, while the European Commission and the national authorities are preparing more strict emissions limits, a number of inquiries have already been opened in France.
But the executive seems reluctant to open any kind of inquiry. Elzbieta Bienkowska, the Internal Market Commissioner, has upset MEPs by saying that the executive intends not to act until the member states have conducted their own national investigations.
The presidents of the European Parliament´s Environment, Transport, Internal Market and Industry committees have decided to investigate how Volkswagen cars could have cheated the testing system without the fraud being picked up at any stage by the European Commission.