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Einride will operate its cab-less autonomous pods on US public roads – TechCrunch

Einride, the Swedish startup that aims to electrify the self-driving cargo industry, will this year begin operating its purpose-built self-driving pods on public roads in the United States under an existing partnership with General Electric Appliances (GEA).

Einride’s pods are built without a front cab for a human safety operator, which the company says needs National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) approval to operate on public roads.

“Other companies retrofit existing trucks to become self-driving, but we’re doing the opposite,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder of Einride, told TechCrunch. “We’re building a whole new way of doing autonomous expeditions from the ground up, which translates into this new kind of vehicle design and functionality.”

While there are a number of autonomous trucking companies today handling freight in the United States, it’s true that all of them are currently based on existing trucks, and almost none of them are electric. .

Einride says the milestone marks the first time a purpose-built autonomous electric truck has been cleared to operate on public roads, however, it recalls self-driving vehicle company Nuro’s 2020 request for a temporary exemption from certain standard requirements of low-speed vehicles. Nuro’s vehicles, which deliver food and groceries using public roads, are also built without space for a driver or passengers. So the company needed NHTSA approval to use a new type of vehicle that isn’t built with certain human-centric features, like mirrors or a windshield. Presumably, Einride’s endorsement is similar in nature, but the company would not confirm with TechCrunch. NHTSA was also unable to confirm this to TechCrunch, despite multiple contact attempts.

Einride said the approval was conditional on the company adhering to a set location and schedule – Einride’s module will operate on a mile-long stretch of mixed-traffic road between a GEA plant and a warehouse in Selmer, Tennessee, starting in the third quarter of 2022. Einride has been piloting its modules with GEA since November 2021 at the company’s fenced warehouse in Louisville, during which time Einride tested the metal of its technology in a facility closed with predetermined routes and a controlled environment.

“This new pilot will take us on public roads for the first time in the United States, allowing for short route expeditions that use public roads as well as fenced areas,” Falck said, noting that the pod will operate between a warehouse fenced and public roads. “What we’re building with these different pilots is a clear business case for how our Einride pods can support go-to-market for customers, in a variety of environments.”

During the initial two-week pilot, the pod will transport cargo and coordinate with warehouse crews for loading and unloading. A remote pod operator, which Einride says is key to helping the company’s business model become scalable in the future, will monitor operations and assist or guide when needed during critical low-speed operations, depending on the company. For example, the remote operator can help the vehicle back up to a dock or wait for workers to unload the basket. Einride says the vehicle can operate autonomously in most other situations.

It’s unclear how many runs the pod will do each day, but per its approval limits with NHTSA, Einride’s pod will only operate during daylight hours on weekdays, and it will avoid adverse weather and road conditions like heavy rain, snow, fog, hail or temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The pod does, however, have the ability to operate in such conditions thanks to lidar and cameras, the company said.

Einride is also expanding its presence in the United States through its partnership with oat milk company Oatly. The two expanded their partnership earlier this month to electrify Oatly’s North American fleet with five of Einride’s Class 8 connected electric trucks. In February, Einride reportedly ordered 200 electric trucks from BYD for use in the United States

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