Einride's autonomous electric truck gets its first full-time job
Back in 2017, Sweden's Einride presented its vision for the future of freight hauling with the cabless T-pod truck. The electric autonomous vehicle received NHTSA approval for use on public roads last year, and has now started daily operations in Selmer, Tennessee.
Einride has partnered with GE Appliances for the interoperability project, following pilots undertaken in a gated environment at the latter's Kentucky headquarters in 2021. The futuristic electric truck is now moving finished goods between a GE manufacturing facility in Selmer to a warehouse 0.3 miles (0.48 km) away, making seven trips along the private road per day from Monday to Thursday each week.
The vehicle positions itself at a loading bay, where AI cameras from project partner TaskWatch trigger the operation of dock doors and dock plate, while also locking the truck in place and communicating with an autonomous loading robot from Slip Robotics, another project partner.
Once the cargo is loaded, the Einride vehicle makes its way to the warehouse for autonomous docking and unloading. Each trip is monitored by a remote operator over a private communications network supplied by Ericsson.
"At Einride we believe in human-led autonomy, which means we always have a human in the loop of our autonomous operations in the form of a remote operator," explained Einride. "While the Einride autonomous vehicle is designed to, and does, operate autonomously, our remote operators help to make autonomous scalable, secure and ensure optimal efficiencies and safety at all times for our vehicles. The operator on site at Selmer will guide or assist the ADS (Automated Driving System) of the Einride autonomous vehicle if need be and monitors/assists at low speed operations. One of the operators on site will be Tiffany Heathcott, who was the first remote operator hired at Einride."
"Our partnership with Einride in Selmer reflects our evolved approach to robotics and automation technology," said Senior Director of Central Materials at GE Appliances, Harry Chase. "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."