Swedish trucking start-up Einride recently unveiled a new line of electric, driverless freight trucks that don't have a cab (where a driver would typically sit) and can be controlled remotely.
On Thursday, Einride revealed its line of Pod commercial freight trucks that the company expects to put on the road in 2021, Einride wrote in a press release. Aimed at companies looking to move away from traditional diesel trucks, Einride describes the new Pod trucks as the "future of freight."
Einride says the trucks can help companies cut their fuel costs by up to 70% and reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%.
Founded in 2016, the Stockholm-based Einride in 2019 successfully deployed an earlier version of its electric, autonomous trucks to make deliveries on public roads in Sweden. Those trucks, called the T-Pod, received temporary regulatory approval to drive on public roads for limited stretches without exceeding roughly 3.1 mph. Einride is still looking to secure full regulatory approvals for its new crop of Pod trucks to drive on public roads at higher speeds.
The company's new line of trucks is similar to previous iterations, in that the Pod does not have a cab for drivers, and it also has no steering wheel or a traditional windshield, according to The Verge. The trucks drive autonomously using the company's own proprietary self-driving software, according to Einride. Deliveries are planned and executed using Einride's freight mobility platform, a software platform that uses machine learning to map routes and monitor the truck's battery power and track its freight shipments.
Einride's trucks are also capable of being controlled remotely using the Swedish company's teleoperation technology that allows a single remote operator to control freight trucks from an office hundreds of miles from the truck itself. Remote operators will be able to steer the trucks through complicated maneuvers, such as slowly backing up to a loading dock, and Einride even released a video in April showing how one operator can control multiple trucks at once.
Each Pod truck weighs 26 tons and has a cargo capacity of up to 16 tons. The truck's electric battery will have a range of between roughly 80 to 110 miles.
Einride says the line of Pod trucks will be available in four levels of autonomy. The first, called Autonomous Electric Transport (AET) 1, is meant only for driving on private roads "with predetermined routes," for instance within a corporate facility, the company said in its press release. The second level, AET 2, can handled closed facilities as well as short trips on public roads. Both of those levels of the Pod will be available in 2021 and will have top speeds of around 18 mph.
The next two levels, AET 3 and AET 4, are available for pre-orders and will ship to customers as early as 2022, according to Einride. The AET 3 level of autonomy will mean the Pod can drive on backroads and "less busy main roads between facilities," the company said, with a top speed of nearly 28 mph. With the AET 4, the truck will be fully autonomous on highways and other major roads at more than 50 mph.
None of the levels require a human driver in the Pod, though a remote operator may take control of the truck, if necessary.
Companies looking to use Einride's Pod trucks will not be able to buy them outright, with Einride instead implementing a tiered subscription program. After paying a $10,000 reservation fee, companies will essentially rent the trucks from Einride, paying monthly installments that cover the use of each truck as well as access to Einride's freight software platform and Einride-certified remote operators. Companies will use Einride's platform to control their trucks' delivery routes.
The starting cost of the subscription fees will range from $18,000 per month for the AET 1 to $22,500 per month for the AET 4.
Einride has raised more than $42 million from investors, including $10 million in early-October. In Sweden, the company has partnered with businesses such as grocery store chain Lidl and oat milk producer Oatly to supply them with trucks. And in December, Einride announced a partnership with Coca-Cola's European distributor on a pilot program to develop electric, driverless trucks for the company.
In 2019, Einride announced plans to expand its operations to the U.S., including a planned U.S. office, though such an expansion would eventually require additional regulatory approvals from U.S. authorities for operating autonomous vehicles on public roads. The Swedish company has said it has already signed on various U.S. partner companies, but has not yet named those partners.
While companies like Tesla, Alphabet's Waymo, Uber and Lyft have garnered headlines for their work on developing self-driving cars in recent years, some experts believe that driverless freight trucks are likely to become a fixture on public roads before passenger cars. In addition to Sweden's Einride, U.S. companies Embark and TuSimple are working on developing their own autonomous freight trucks — while Tesla, Waymo, Daimler, Volvo and other big names are also definitely invested in the industry — as those companies all look to upend the $1.2 trillion global trucking industry.
While driverless trucks could have major implications and benefits for freight companies, from the potential for improved road safety and eliminating the costs of human drivers, they could also put millions of human drivers out of work.
Correction: This article has been updated to show that the Einride Pod trucks will drive autonomously using the company's own proprietary self-driving software.
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