Swedish Einride’s 2nd generation driver-less truck goes cross-border

Einride, the Swedish autonomous electric truck or ‘pod’ with the looks of a Star Wars Storm Trooper, has a second-generation, larger sibling: the ‘Gen 2’. It’s missing a driver’s cabin because it can handle most things on the road on its own, and a safety driver is sitting elsewhere behind computer screens overlooking the fleet, able to cut in remotely.

After setting up pilots with autonomous pods in its homeland Sweden and Germany, it was the first SAE Level 4 autonomous truck allowed on US roads in Los Angeles. And now it’s setting a new milestone by being the first driver-less truck to go cross-border between Sweden and Norway in the so-called MODI project, co-funded by the EU.

EU autonomous truck program

MODI is a European-funded four-year program, starting in November 2022, to connect the harbors of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Hamburg in Germany, Göteborg in Sweden, and Moss in Norway with Level 4-autonomous driving trucks.

It brings together 29 partners in the transport sector, including truck manufacturers Volvo Trucks and DAF. Swedish Einride will manage the project along the E6 motorway between Gothenburg (Sweden) and Oslo (Norway).

Without a human aboard

Einride’s first T-Pod, launched in 2019, was a seven by 2,5 m measuring electric truck capable of loading 15 euro pallets and weighing 26 tons. It has a top speed of 85 km/hour. Its 200 kWh battery gives it a range of 200 km.

The T-Log is a variant with an open loading space for loading tree trunks for the logging industry, and there also is a variant able to load a standard 20-foot container. Even then, the T-Pod was already capable of SAE Level 4 autonomous driving using the Nvidia Drive platform.

Level 4 means an autonomous vehicle can do without a driver – even missing steering wheel and pedals – when deployed in a well-defined area under certain conditions, like normal weather circumstances.

Remotely controlled

The Gen 2 is a bigger variant, capable of moving more weight and building further on the technology used in the T-Pod. It also has an array of radars, lidars, and cameras to have a 360-degree view of its environment. Ericsson delivers the 5G connections to the vehicle.

And it can also be controlled remotely by a human driver when the autonomous truck feels it needs ‘advice’ to handle certain situations it encounters on the road. Einride developed a new remote driver’s control post with multiple screens where the trucker of the future can monitor several trucks simultaneously. This is the third generation.

The remote operator post allows monitoring a fleet of autonomous trucks on the roads and a human driver to intervene with real sight on the situation through the truck’s electronic ‘eyes’ /Einride

It’s a real cost-saving factor for the transport company, and the ‘virtual’ trucker can get home to his family every night. Gone are the lonely hours on the road and sleeping in a truck cabin.

Einride did its first tests under ‘real-world conditions’ in 2019 on a secure site of DB Schenker in Jönköping, a city at the southern-most point of the Vättermeer, 300 km south-west of Stockholm and a fully autonomous daily transport between a warehouse and a terminal.

EV truck charging plaza

During the pandemic, it remained relatively silent around Einride, which didn’t mean no progress was made. In its November announcement,  the Swedish company announced an extensive pilot in the harbor of Los Angeles, in collaboration with GE Appliances, after doing similar pilots with Electrolux in Sweden.

Besides the autonomous driving trucks, Einride works with external suppliers for ‘regular’ human-driven electric trucks that can be integrated into the Einride transport system.

The latest developments include the Einride Stations, where a fleet of electric trucks (autonomous or not) can be charged simultaneously. Einride is not a developer but a transport service company that provides a complete system to transport or logistics companies.

It does not aim at selling its autonomous electric trucks as such but specializes in a complete transport service that is to be run by the client itself or operated by Einride and managed by AI-aided network software incorporating planning and management of the whole transport ‘grid’ in a specific area.

Einride opened its first Stations charging ‘plaza’ in Sweden and will build a large one in the Port of Los Angeles in 2023 /Einride

 

 

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