A fully autonomous and electric transport truck called the T-Pod is traversing public roads in Sweden, after getting approval from government authorities. The project is a joint effort from German logistics company DB Schneker and Einride, a Swedish transport company specializing in self-driving vehicles.
The project’s government approval is valid until the end of 2020 and allows for travel at only 5 kph, falling dramatically short of the truck’s 85 kph capabilities. The T-Pod features a 280 kWh battery, weighs 26 tons at full capacity, and should have a range of 200 kilometers (~124 miles). Its operation route is on a single public road in Jönköping, traveling between a warehouse and terminal.
“This public road permit is a major milestone … and it is a step to commercializing autonomous technology on roads,” Robert Falck, CEO of Einride, told Reuters. “Since we’re a software and operational first company, a partnership with a manufacturing company is something that we see as a core moving forward.”
Both partners in the project are calling it a world premiere of the “first cab-less and autonomous, fully electric truck in commercial operations on public road.” The T-Pod uses a Nvidia Drive platform, which makes it capable of processing visual data in real time, and is level 4 autonomous – the second highest category. A single operator, supervising from afar, can monitor and control up to 10 vehicles at once. According to Einride, use of the truck can reduce road freight operating costs by something like 60% in comparison with the costs of a diesel truck. Currently, Swedish authorities have mandated that there must be one supervisor per vehicle, who could intervene with a joystick if need be.
Einride already has other projects in the works, with orders from Lidl, a German grocer, and Swedish delivery company Svenska Retursystem, and perhaps five other Fortune 500 retailers, according to Reuters. We can’t wait to see what the company has in store – in the meantime we hope it can get approval for a speed higher than 5 kph.