Einride is a Swedish company founded in 2016 to promote more efficient freight distribution through advanced digital management tools. It also is exploring ways of decarbonizing the world of cargo by using electric vehicles to move shipping containers around in freight terminals. In March, it signed an agreement with Maersk, the largest ocean cargo company in the world, to put 300 electric semi tractors into service hauling freight for its North American warehousing, distribution, and transportation business.
Now, Einride says it has received approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to begin testing its Autonomous Electric Transport vehicle on US roads. The AET is one of the weirdest contraptions seen on any highway anywhere. It is basically a driverless palette mover designed to transport one standard shipping container from Point A to Point B with no human driver onboard. There will, however, be a human controller monitoring the operation of the vehicle remotely.
This marks the first time a purpose built autonomous electric truck without a driver on board has received permission to use public roads in the United States. Einride will conduct a test of the AET on public roads in Tennessee later this year in cooperation with GE Appliances. The testing program will support GE’s operational flows and showcase the Einride Pod’s purpose-built functionality for future commercialization.
The autonomous electric truck does not have room for a driver on board, as it is built without a traditional front cab. It is remotely monitored by a Remote Pod Operator, making this pilot an industry first for this new type of vehicle. Einride says it sees the operator as “critical in safely scaling autonomous vehicles by keeping humans in the loop and creating jobs to fulfill a future way of shipping.”
The Einride Pod will operate on public roads with mixed traffic while executing real life workflows, including the movement of goods and coordinating with teams at various warehouses for loading and unloading.
“This is a type of vehicle that has never before been seen on U.S. roads and marks a major milestone as a turning point for the future of the freight industry. We know the autonomous and electric technology of our pod will not only revolutionize transportation but also create thousands of jobs and help America stay competitive,” Robert Falck, CEO of Einride, tells Inside EVs.
Bill Good, vice president for supply chain operations at GE Appliances, adds, “We are creating a more sustainable and efficient supply chain through increased electrification and automation in our manufacturing and distribution operations. We’ve appreciated working with Einride in demonstrating how their Pod technology can help us accelerate achievement of that goal.”
The Einride AET may look other worldly to most of us, but it is the shape of things to come. Human drivers need places to sleep and eat, both of which cost money. An autonomous vehicle never sleeps, never calls in sick, or asks for the day off to take kids to the beach. In theory, one human controller will be able to manage several of these autonomous vehicles at a time, further reducing overall cost for shipping companies. A brave new world of self-driving electric vehicles is dawning and Einride is at the cutting edge of the next revolution in trucking.
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