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Autonomous yard trucking startup drives out of stealth with $53M in Series A

The mission is to make the yard environment cleaner and more efficient, Outrider CEO says.

Image: Outrider

An autonomous yard trucking startup has come out of stealth, announcing $53 million in Series A and seed funding rounds led by investment groups NEA and 8VC.

Previously known as Azevtec, Outrider is taking on Level 4 autonomous yard trucks plus robotics with the goal of “completely re-defining” the yard environment, according to CEO and founder Andrew Smith.

Distribution yards play a key role in the supply chain, keeping trailers full of freight moving quickly in the space between the warehouse doors and public roads.

These logistics hubs depend largely on manual operations, however, and as such are rife with inefficiencies, said Smith, formerly CEO of ATDynamics, a company that manufactured fuel-saving trailer tails. “There’s lots of congestion, trailers that are misplaced and too many inefficient idling trucks.”

Outrider’s objective is to automate (and electrify) this environment, resulting in safer and more streamlined and ecologically sustainable practices. Its core offering consists of a software and hardware package, with three main components.

The first is a web-based user interface that allows customers to dispatch and move vehicles around the yard. The second is the site infrastructure that allows autonomous vehicles to operate safely around warehouses.

The third piece is an actual electric automated yard truck featuring vision-based robotics for moving trailers around the complex and confined yard environment.

That integrated approach distinguishes the Golden, Colorado-based company from competitors that have set their sights on automating the busy yard environment, Smith claims. “Our system is meant to integrate with real-world distribution center operations today, as opposed to requiring large-scale replacing of equipment.”

Outrider is aligned with multiple autonomous vehicle companies in linking autonomy and zero emissions transportation.

Noting he has dedicated his career to commercialization of sustainable transportation technologies, Smith said Outrider’s mission is “to be a catalyst for our customers and suppliers for bringing tens of thousands of electric vehicles into supply chain operations.”

Unlike many public and private transportation environments, where it may be years before autonomous vehicles are actually deployed, logistics hubs meet the criteria necessary for near-term use, according to Smith. Those include a well-defined environment, a set of discrete repetitive tasks and a clear customer pain point.

“Some of the team that we have brought together who have decades of experience in autonomous vehicles and robotics space joined this effort because it’s a tractable problem in autonomy,” he said.

In addition to Smith, the project leads total more than 100 years of hands-on experience in ground-vehicle autonomy and robotic automation from organizations including Lockheed Martin, iRobot, Endeavor Robotics, Bossa Nova Robotics, Tesla, Rivian and Nvidia.

Outrider is already working with several large customers, including Georgia Pacific. An additional four companies in the retail, manufacturing and packaging industries are also involved in pilot projects, Smith said.


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Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected].