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Project 'Ecotwin' challenges Employeneurs @TNO

What do Jeroen Karregat, Jeroen Maas and Wouter Koningsberger have in common? They are all ambitious TMC Employeneurs and work closely together on the multidisciplinary project 'EcoTwin', “a consortium of DAF Trucks, TNO, NXP and Ricardo, in which each party brings in its own specific knowledge and experience”, TMC's Mechatronics engineer Jeroen Karregat explains. “Via TMC we are detached to TNO Automotive and make an important contribution. Jeroen and I are responsible for software and Wouter for hardware. Since our work is closely connected, we collaborate quite a bit.”

The project is all about automating two trucks to drive closely behind each other ('platooning'). This can be achieved safely by communicating with each other using a wireless connection. The benefits are low fuel consumption (reduced CO2 emission), improved safety (through cameras, WiFi-P and a radar system) and better traffic flow as the trucks do not overtake each other. TMC's electronics hardware engineer Wouter adds: “Within this project I am responsible for hardware integration. The new implementation had a short lead time, which made the job exciting and challenging. Sensors and electronics are integrated within the truck cabin. Safety is key in this project, both on the road and in the truck.” Jeroen Karregat focuses on high-level control, which involves gathering sensor data that must then be converted into the required vehicle movements. Jeroen Maas supplements this with his knowledge of low-level control, which involves braking, accelerating and steering.

European Truck Platooning Challenge

On the 6th of April the EcoTwin took part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge. “This is a challenge organised by Rijkswaterstaat, the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment and RDW”, says Jeroen Maas. “It is by no means a contest; it is about bringing the EU member states and the automotive industry together on how we can accelerate the deployment of truck platooning, by e.g. harmonisation of legal frameworks that allow 'platooning'. Participants are truck manufacturers from different European countries who show what they have developed in the field of 'platooning'.” 6 teams took part in the Challenge in which the EcoTwin trucks left Westerlo (Belgium) and arrived in Rotterdam. Minister Schultz van Haegen of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment was also present during the arrival of the trucks at the 2nd Maasvlakte. The day’s success generated a lot of good publicity. “This is the icing on the cake for us but the project won’t stop here. We will continue the development with the ultimate goal to a highly automated truck.”

Personal Challenges

All three agree that the project gave them enough personal challenges. Jeroen Karregat: “Getting the truck to be safe and comfortable on the road is the biggest challenge. Trucks are not made to be self-driving. There are more systems that you have to take into account compared to passenger cars, which makes the project really complex.” Wouter: “We took turns in being present at the test drives. It’s impressive to see the performance of the truck in normal platooning conditions, but also how the system performs when automatic maximum braking was requested.” Jeroen Maas adds: “The confidence TMC has in us is also great, allowing us to do the courses we need. I’m going to get my truck driver’s license, so in the future I can test the software in the trucks myself!”

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