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Einride Debuts Driverless, Electric Truck Prototype

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【Summary】The T-pod looks nothing like other commercial trucks on the road today. The first thing you’ll notice is that the unit does not have any windows. Additionally, it does not have a driver’s seat for human navigation.

Michael Cheng    Jul 11, 2017 10:00 AM PT
Einride Debuts Driverless, Electric Truck Prototype

Autonomous trucking technology is set to erupt within the next five years, as developers accrue miles on public roads, perfecting their platooning configurations and improving safety in extreme weather conditions. Not a lot of companies have released information about their offerings – until now.

Einride, a Swedish startup that is a key player in the nascent industry, recently unveiled the first version of the T-pod to the public, which is a full-scale, working prototype. Previewed earlier this year in April, the futuristic vessel looks very impressive, equipped with enough space to cater to 15 standard pallets, measuring 23 feet in length and a full capacity of 20 tons.

"We're now at a crucial time for not only the Einride business, but for the future of transport," explained Einride CEO Robert Falck. "Through technology, we have been able to create a system for the future, but it involves bravery and dedication from people the world over, to accept that change is also their responsibility and put the T-pod system into practice."

No Seats and Windows

The T-pod looks nothing like other commercial trucks on the road today. The first thing you'll notice is that the unit does not have any windows. Additionally, it does not have a driver's seat for human navigation. The vessel does not need any of the conventional components traditionally found in early-stage autonomous trucks, because it leverages hybrid-driverless features. On highways, the unit will be capable of operating autonomously without help from a human operator.

But on city roads or when executing risky driving maneuvers, the truck passes control to a nearby human, who controls the vessel remotely. The startup did not provide a preview of the software used to control the trucks.

The T-pod is powered by large batteries, which offers up to 124 miles per charge. Einride engineers will certainly have to expand the unit's range capability, if they want to be able to offer a viable alternative to existing options available today. Highway driving, even near cities, requires medium-to-long range capabilities, as constant recharging will severely disrupt time schedules and deliveries.

Note: A company representative clarified that the remote features and power cells in the prototype have not been fully optimized.

Ready for Deployment

Einride is aiming for a full release of the T-pod later this year. To date, it has already completed more than 50 percent of its production timeline for a fleet of 200 vessels that will take on a delivery route between Gothenburg and Helsingborg in 2020. Public trials for the delivery route will start in 2018. The company's first milestone is the transportation of 2,000,000 pallets per year. To support its autonomous trucks, the business is in the process of building a giant network of charging hubs around the proposed delivery route.

"Overall, the T-Pod network will be able to move up to 2,000,000 pallets of goods per year, which Einride says will have roughly the CO2 emissions equivalent of 400,000 passenger cars traveling the equivalent distance," said Darrel Etherington from TechCrunch.

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