Einride, the Swedish startup looking to electrify the autonomous freight industry, will begin operating its purpose-built, self-driving pods on US public roads this year as part of an existing partnership with General Electric Appliances (GEA).
Einride’s pods were built without a front cabin for a human safety operator, who the company said needed approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) to operate on public roads.
“Other companies are modifying existing trucks to become autonomous, but we are doing the opposite,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder of Einride, told TechCrunch. “We are building an entirely new way of doing autonomous boating from the ground up, resulting in this new type of vehicle design and functionality.”
While there are a number of autonomous trucking companies operating freight in the US today, it is true that all of them are currently based on existing trucks, and almost none of them are electric.
Einride says this milestone marks the first time a purpose-built autonomous electric truck has been authorized to drive on public roads, but it is reminiscent of autonomous vehicle company Nuro’s 2020 request for a temporary exemption from certain standard requirements for vehicles with low speed. Nuro’s vehicles, which deliver food and groceries via public roads, are also built with no room for a driver or passengers. The company therefore needed NHTSA approval to use a new type of vehicle that was not built with certain human-oriented features, such as mirrors or a windshield. Presumably, Einride’s endorsement is similar in nature, but the company wouldn’t confirm this with TechCrunch. The NHTSA was also unable to confirm this to TechCrunch, despite multiple attempts to reach out.
Einride did say the approval is conditional on the company sticking to a set location and timing – Einride’s pod will be available from the third quarter of 2022. Einride has been testing its pods with GEA in its gated warehouse since November 2021. Louisville company, during which time Einride tested the metal of its technology in a closed facility with predetermined routes and a controlled environment.
“This new pilot brings us to public roads in the US for the first time, allowing for short shipments on routes that use both public roads and fenced areas,” Falck said, noting that the pod will operate between a fenced warehouse and public roads. . “What we are building with these different pilots is a clear business case of how our Einride Pods can support commercialization for customers, in different environments.”
During the first two-week pilot, the pod will carry cargo and coordinate with teams in the loading and unloading warehouses. A third-party pod operator, which Einride says is a key to making the company’s business model scalable in the future, will monitor and assist or guide operations when needed during critical, low-speed operations, the company said. For example, the teleworker can help reverse the vehicle to a dock or wait for workers to unload the pod. Einride says the vehicle can operate autonomously in most other situations.
It’s not clear how many runs the pod will do each day, but according to the limits of its approval with NHTSA, Einride’s pod will only operate during the day on weekdays, avoiding adverse weather and road conditions such as heavy rain, snow, fog, hail or temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the pod can work in such conditions thanks to lidar and cameras, the company said.
Einride is also expanding its presence in the US through its partnership with oat-based dairy company Oatly. The two expanded their partnership earlier this month to electrify Oatly’s North American fleet with five of Einride’s connected Class 8 electric trucks. In February, Einride reportedly ordered 200 electric trucks from BYD for use in the US
This post Einride to use its cabin-less autonomous pods on US public roads – TechCrunch was original published at “https://techcrunch.com/2022/06/23/einride-to-operate-its-cab-less-autonomous-pods-on-u-s-public-roads/”