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Forward-looking driving, re-imagined – with UR:BAN

The traffic lights turn green and it's full steam ahead. The truck rolls through town at 40 km/h until it reaches the next red light. The lights turn green just in time and the driver enjoys riding this 'green wave'. What makes it possible is the fact that the truck is receiving information from the traffic lights, enabling it to adjust its speed to the optimum level.

Since 2012, as part of the research project UR:BAN, MAN developers have been working to facilitate safe and efficient urban driving. The main focus is on pioneering driver assistance and traffic management systems for trucks and buses.

MAN Truck & Bus: pioneering driver assistance and traffic management systems for trucks and buses MAN Truck & Bus: pioneering driver assistance and traffic management systems for trucks and buses MAN Truck & Bus: pioneering driver assistance and traffic management systems for trucks and buses MAN Truck & Bus: pioneering driver assistance and traffic management systems for trucks and buses MAN Truck & Bus: pioneering driver assistance and traffic management systems for trucks and buses
"As part of UR:BAN, MAN developers have been working to facilitate safe and efficient urban driving."

Research to improve urban driving: 31 companies, universities, municipalities and research institutes are collaborating on the UR:BAN project. The research initiative is also receiving substantial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Karlheinz Dörner, head of the development team at the MAN site in Munich, says: "We are working simultaneously on the sub-areas 'Connected traffic system', 'Cognitive assistance' and 'The individual driver'. The driver is at the core of all our research," Dörner explains.

Everything flowing smoothly: the traffic of the future

The main goal of the sub-project 'Connected traffic system' is to avoid unnecessary stops in urban traffic and thereby reduce fuel consumption. A complex task, as electrical engineer Andreas Zimmermann is finding out. It requires traffic lights to communicate with vehicles via mobile telephony or WLAN. This data exchange enables the control units to calculate the optimum driving strategy and speed and send the data to the vehicle – getting urban traffic flowing.

MAN has already built two prototypes enabling drivers to 'ride the green wave'. Great news for bus and logistics companies. Once the technology is ready for production, these companies will save both time and money. "The high efficiency of modern commercial vehicles often suffers as a result of frequent stopping and starting. Just two stops per kilometre can triple the average consumption of a fully loaded 40-tonner, for example," explains engineer Sebastian Völl.

"Two stops per kilometre triples the average consumption of a fully loaded 40-tonner!"

Improved safety thanks to the Bird-View-System

Driving a city bus and seeing more at a glance: the core aim of the sub-project 'Cognitive assistance' is to provide situation-specific support to the driver. The researchers are working on developing a system whereby the driver can view the whole of the vehicle environment on a monitor.

"Drivers are faced with particular challenges in their working environment," says Walter Schwertberger. "The main difficulties are stops, crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, bottlenecks, two-way traffic and lane changes."

Naturally, having a better overview of their surroundings makes things easier for drivers – and this in turn leads to improved safety in urban traffic. All this is made possible by the Bird-View-System, which displays a bird's eye view of the vehicle environment. Six cameras are used to supply images for 360-degree detection. The computer converts these into an overall image which it displays to the driver.

Development engineer Michael Reule explains: "To make the image as clear as possible, it is projected onto a three-dimensional structure, known as a bowl. This means that the driving scene can be viewed from any angle and minimises distortions in perspective."

A focus on people

It is important never to forget that technologies are made for people. That's why it is so important for them to be involved right from the start. Even with all the possibilities of intelligent automation for driving, people still have a key role to play.

Assistance systems – such as the Green Wave Assistant – have access to information the driver does not have. And that is precisely why it is so important to explain these systems to drivers in detail and to create transparency by providing them with suitable information. Because only when these 'useful electronic helpers' are fully understood can they be optimally used.

As a media specialist and PhD student at the Technical University of Munich working on the sub-project 'The individual driver', Sonja Stockert often collaborates with test drivers. The drivers' feedback is very important to her. The professionals know best which information and support they need when driving. This gives the research a practical orientation. To help individual drivers. To help MAN succeed.


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