ZF pledges to invest big bucks in electric and autonomous technologies

by Sonia Straface

HANNOVER, Germany – ZF announced today at the IAA show that is planning to invest € 12 billion in e-mobility and autonomous driving in the next five years.

According to Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of ZF Freidrichshafen, modern-day logistics is at a tipping point, and ZF’s focus is how to make logistics and transportation more efficient and cleaner.

“Our approach is called Smart Logistics,” he explained, saying the company has bundled its technologies through automation, networking and electrification and has created attractive solutions for the complete logistics chain.

He turned to ZF’s latest technologies – its Innovation Truck and its Terminal Yard tractor to show how ZF is part of the transportation solution. Both vehicles have the ability to autonomously maneuver trailers and containers without a driver. These vehicles both improve efficiency, and help address the growing shortage of qualified drivers, Scheider added.

“Driverless transport vehicles and automated functions will play a significant role particularly in zoned areas like company terminal yards, forwarding company depots or air and sea ports,” he said. “In the near future, we will be seeing more autonomous vehicles in such zoned areas faster than on public roads. The cost, safety and efficiency benefits for customers will make a difference here.”

Scheider also said he anticipates transportation will once again be in the spotlight this coming December as more and more people order packages and parcels online for the holidays.

“Last mile deliveries is an urgent problem for logistics, especially the deliveries for packages and parcels,” he said. “People want them delivered flexibility and quickly.”

As such, he said ZF has turned its attention on the importance of last-mile delivery solutions through its Innovation Van. The van combines autonomous driving and an all-electric drive to help make parcel deliveries an easy task in residential and city center areas.

The van is equipped with level 4 autonomous driving functions, and can drive through cities effortlessly as its can detect lane marking, recognize traffic lights and road signs, and avoid obstacles. There’s also a FollowMe function – which utilizes a tablet-based remote control – is particularly helpful for drivers. If two addresses are close enough that it makes more sense for the delivery driver to stay on foot, the Innovation Van will follow the driver as if on a virtual leash, avoiding detouring and double parking.

“It’s really a revolution for last mile deliveries,” Scheider said adding customers are already very interested in the van.

“Efficiency is number one for customers…if you have more time for the driver or operator to take care of other logistics tasks, like dispatching or organizing, that is immediately a business case for customers,” he said.

Scheider added that to date, ZF equips all of its commercial vehicles – from vans, to buses, to heavy cargo trucks, will electric drives. In heavy duty applications, all-electric maneuvering can have a potential fuel saving of 5-7%.

“ZF wants to make transportation clean and smart,” he said. “And with these technologies, we are able to solve transportation problems worldwide.”

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