Swedish self-driving truck startup Einride AB will test its self-driving cargo vehicles on US public roads in a deal with GE Appliances after getting approval from federal regulators.
Einride plans to put one of its chunky electric vehicles, which don’t have cabs for drivers, on a mile-long stretch of highway between two warehouses in Tennessee for GE Appliances, a subsidiary of the Haier appliance company. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently approved the company’s test run.
“This is a step-by-step approach, and this is a big step forward as it is actually on public roads now,” said Robert Falck, chief executive of the Stockholm-based company, which has been in existence for six years.
Einride is joining a growing field of autonomous truck startups in the race to get their technology on the road and generate revenue. Companies like San Diego-based TuSimple Holdings Inc., Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation Inc. and Waymo LLC, a division of Google’s parent company Alphabet. Inc.,
have announced trials of their driverless truck technology in commercial cargo-carrying operations.
Steve Viscelli, a fellow and professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a trucking industry expert who sits on an advisory council for Aurora, said the freight sector is moving faster toward autonomous transportation than the passenger car business. , in part because technology can reduce costs. and simplify operations for commercial trucking companies.
“Trucks will certainly be the first to truly driverless, in part because of their economics,” Viscelli said. “Right now, we have huge limitations on how long a truck can move because it’s piloted by a human being, who needs to sleep and use the bathroom and take mandatory 10-hour breaks and other things.”
Einride calls their stubby, snub-nosed vehicles Pods. They have room for about 10 pallets, or about 57,000 pounds. There is no driver on board and they are managed by remote operators, who can monitor multiple vehicles at once, according to Einride. Those remote operators take actions that drivers would normally do, like calling someone when a vehicle gets stuck in a gate, Falck said.
The Einride pilot program, which will run for two weeks in the third quarter of 2022, will place the Pod on public roads used by trucks and cars.
Einride last year signed an agreement to deliver 300 electric trucks to shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk A/S.
Many of the self-driving trucks being developed by other companies are not electric. That’s in part because the return on investment doesn’t exist right now for the distance they’d travel compared to the time they’d have to spend charging, Viscelli said.
One of the challenges facing electric vehicle companies in the US is the lack of charging infrastructure. That shouldn’t be a concern on the short stretch Einride will use in Tennessee, but Falck said his company is prepared to build the infrastructure it needs to run its vehicles.
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