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VDL Groep strengthens position in autonomous driving
VDL Automated Guided Vehicle at BASF's site in Ludwigshafen

VDL Groep strengthens position in autonomous driving

25 October 2017

VDL Groep takes action in the field of smart mobility. The industrial family firm with its head office in Eindhoven shows that electric mobility is already available and forms the basis for future mobility concepts that will have a major impact on our lives, such as autonomous driving and connectivity. VDL Automated Vehicles, the business unit that focuses on autonomous vehicles for goods transport, has received new follow-up orders from chemicals group BASF and logistics company Katoen Natie. New autonomous vehicles are to be delivered to these customers in Germany and Singapore. The follow-up orders are worth millions of euros.


The German chemicals group BASF has placed a follow-up order for 7 automated guided vehicles, more than 100 frames, charging stations, control systems, infrastructure and other developments on the road to fully autonomous driving. These VDL AGVs will be unmanned in a manned environment. The modular vehicle construction has been adapted in such a way that a certified level of safety is achieved with smart integration of computers, cameras, sensors and scanners.

“This follow-up order from BASF is a confirmation of our team’s performance and is also essential to our next development step,” says manager Karel Smits of VDL Automated Vehicles. “Thanks to our customer’s confidence in us, VDL is at the forefront of autonomous heavy-duty transport, as a result of which VDL Automated Vehicles is able to further strengthen itself.”


The vehicles will be deployed autonomously and fully electrically by BASF in Ludwigshafen and will cover routes over a distance of more than 100 kilometres at a maximum speed of 30 km/h. The construction of the AGVs will start in January and the deliveries will take place from the second half of 2018.

VDL Automated Vehicles’ innovative, fully automatic vehicle is a development of the existing VDL AGV. The 16-axle, 18-metre vehicle is the first vehicle in the world where the surrounding area no longer needs to be protected or in which a ‘guard’ has to ride. When empty, the AGV weighs 28 tonnes; when laden, up to 113 tonnes. In a number of other areas, too, the vehicle is innovative: it removes the load by itself and, at a height of 1.15 metres, is extremely low. This means that the vehicle is able to drive easily under existing pipes and lines that are part of the local infrastructure.

Katoen Natie

VDL recently delivered the first driverless truck to logistics company Katoen Natie in Singapore. This is a special vehicle that is used at Katoen Natie’s unit in South-East Asia for transporting semi-trailers. The software and equipment that make automatic driving possible were prepared at VDL in The Netherlands. The truck was then assembled at the VDL unit in Singapore. The first test drives have been successful. The functionalities of the autonomous vehicle will be expanded until the spring of 2018. For example, the number of loading and unloading locations. Katoen Natie will then take delivery of 11 more of this type of driverless truck. “By setting up an innovation centre in Singapore, VDL is demonstrating its ambition”, says director Koen Cardon of Katoen Natie Singapore.  

Satellite navigation

The trucks will first drive on the premises of a petrochemical company equipped with electronic beacons. In a second phase, the trucks will be deployed on the Singapore island of Jurong, where they will have to find their way around using satellite navigation. Eventually the trucks will operate in normal traffic in Singapore. The driverless trucks are a solution for Katoen Natie’s operations in Singapore: local drivers are hard to find and the government wants to reduce the number of foreign drivers.

“Good to see that our AGVs are making the logistics more efficient and safer and increasingly easy to fit into existing logistics chains”, says manager Karel Smits of VDL Automated Vehicles from Singapore, where VDL’s concept is being presented today.

VDL Automated Vehicles

VDL Automated Vehicles is the collaborative venture between VDL Steelweld of Breda and VDL Container systems of Hapert, both part of VDL Groep. The cluster's focus is automated guided vehicles for the transport of goods. VDL Automated Vehicles stands apart from the competition through the modular design of the vehicles, which can therefore be configured to accommodate a specific customer environment or requirement.

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