The company Einride is one of many startups that have been built on big goals regarding autonomous, electric transport. Most of these companies never get far and never make much of an impact. Well, this Swedish startup may be special, because it’s got a deal actually putting its autonomous truck to work … in Selmer, Tennessee, of all places.
Einride saves some money from the elimination of a cab (naturally), but the real proof in its technology and approach will be if this initial contract turns into something much bigger. For the time being, it’s only one vehicle being deployed in a limited fashion.
The Einride autonomous truck is taking GE Appliances products from a GE Appliances factory to a warehouse less than a mile away. In fact, it’s just 0.3 miles away. But at least the truck is operating!
The Einride autonomous truck works full time and makes the trip up to seven times per day, from Monday through Thursday. Importantly, and as you may well have guessed when you saw the distance of the route, the truck is not running on public roads. This is all occurring on private GE Appliances roads. Is this progress? Yes, it’s progress. Is this proof that Einride’s autonomous trucks will be a common form of transportation across the US or the globe in the future? Nope.
This partnership isn’t out of the blue, though. The companies have worked together for the past couple of years in different ways. “This long-term deployment follows previous pilots done in collaboration with GE Appliances, first in a gated environment at the company’s Appliance Park headquarters in 2021, followed by the first public road pilot in the US for a purpose built autonomous, electric truck without a driver on board in Selmer in 2022,” Einride writes.
“The Einride autonomous vehicle is part of a larger interoperability project in Selmer to create an automated logistics flow that improves employee ergonomics and safety around the loading docks and increases efficiency. Additional GE Appliances partners include TaskWatch and Slip robotics. TaskWatch’s AI cameras trigger a control board to raise and lower the dock doors, dock plate, lock the Einride autonomous vehicle into place and notify the Slip robot that the autonomous vehicle is ready for loading. The Slip then autonomously loads and unloads the vehicle, reducing loading times by 80%. Einride’s connectivity partner Ericsson provided the private network to ensure reliable communication between the vehicle and the remote operator on site. Tiffany Heathcott, the first remote operator hired by Einride, is onsite to monitor the vehicle.”
Clearly, as that quote above shows, GE Appliances is keen to be a leader in the use of new technology and is trying out various innovations. It’s an interesting and I would say even impressive approach in this day and age. Much transport and manufacturing relies on old, antiquated, inefficient systems. Many companies are not eager to try out something new and wait until it becomes an established, common practice in their industry. GE Appliances appears to be built differently.
“Our partnership with Einride in Selmer reflects our evolved approach to robotics and automation technology,” says Harry Chase, Senior Director of Central Materials at GE Appliances. “We are moving from implementing one-off solutions addressing various challenges to creating interoperability among systems that can build consistency and streamline processes in our factories and throughout our supply chain. This implementation in Selmer is helping us reduce emissions, allowing our employees to focus on high value tasks, reducing traffic in congested areas to create a safer work environment, and eliminating some of the most challenging ergonomic tasks like climbing on and off a forklift and hooking and unhooking trailers. We believe robotics and automation technology should work with and for people to improve their jobs.”
“We are very proud to partner with GEA and be able to lead the industry in providing autonomous technology and deploying it in the strongest commercial use case today,” said Henrik Green, General Manager, Autonomous Technologies at Einride. “We look forward to continuing this work to establish autonomous’ key role in transportation, both with GEA and other partners across markets.”
All images courtesy of Einride.