Einride AB, which has been developing autonomous and remotely operated electric trucks, today announced the first public demonstrations of its technology. The Stockholm-based company said that one human driver could control multiple Pods to address skills shortages and ever-increasing logistics demand.
In the U.S. alone, there was a shortfall of 51,000 truckers and a workforce that was only 6% female prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Einride.
In February, the company said it was hiring its first remote operators, with the goal of eventually having one driver monitoring up to 10 semi-autonomous Pods. The drivers would remotely control the vehicles for more complicated or unforeseen maneuvers, such as parking at a loading dock or avoiding an obstacle in the road.
“The ambition is that one driver should be able to control 10 vehicles,” said Robert Falck, founder and CEO of Einride. “We are continuously improving the technology to reach that goal. When will depend on the application, speed, and the context the Pod is driving in.”
Einride pursues semi-autonomous vision
“The remote operation and oversight of autonomous vehicles require robust real-time video and data transmission, managed through a secure channel over often-insecure infrastructure,” stated Pär Degerman, chief technology officer of Einride. “With this milestone, we are laying the technical foundation for swift and easy switching between vehicles, as well as the ongoing scaling of this functionality.”
“Not only can we switch between monitored vehicles, but also between operators in different geographical locations, increasing the flexibility of our system exponentially,” he said. Einride also expects its Pods to take advantage of 5G networks for scale and safety.
“On a scale, multiple drivers will control a fleet of vehicles, allowing them to balance workload and unforeseen edge-case situations,” Falck told The Robot Report. “Einride technology can function with enhanced 4G, but 5G will be key to scale fleets of autonomous vehicles.”
By using autonomous electric transport (AET) vehicles such as the Einride Pod, transport managers could expand average workday for a single vehicle from eight to 24 hours, an increase in productivity of up to 300%, said the company. In addition, operators would not have to wait for loading and unloading, refueling, or recharging to oversee and operate other vehicles.
Aiming for new levels of fleet efficiency
Expanding the driver-to-vehicle ratio from one-to-one to one-to-many could improve fleet efficiency in terms of cost, time, and sustainability, said Einride. Shippers can already use its Freight Mobility Platform to track their entire fleets in real time and optimize routes and schedules for cost and emissions reduction.
“The cost of transport continues to increase by 2% to 3% year over year, while the average capacity utilization of any given transport vehicle remains around 25%,” said Falck. “With the ability to monitor and control multiple AET vehicles with just one remote operator, we can dramatically improve the cost efficiency of every vehicle in a fleet, not to mention significantly reducing emissions and improving the work environment for truck drivers.”
Although self-driving truck startup Starsky Robotics recently shut down, Falck said the logistics industry still needs emerging technologies.
“Starsky was a visionary company that inspired the industry and pushed the possible. What they helped to start will be followed by others,” he said. “We and many with us continue to drive the future. The technology and business case for autonomous and electric transport is there. It’s just a matter of time.”
“The best business case and application for autonomous vehicles is for the transport of goods,” Falck added. “It will be the first on-scale application of autonomous vehicles.”
Einride is working with several technology and manufacturing partners. The company said it expects the first customer implementations of its technology in Sweden later this year, and it plans to expand to the U.S.
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