The Swedish startup Einride has raised $25 million in a Series A round and will use the funds to grow its driverless and cabless truck business.
In an interview with FreightWaves, co-founder and CEO Robert Falck said the company aims to accelerate number of vehicles in its fleet as well as commercial contracts. The round, announced on October 10, will also help Einride expand services to the U.S.
Driverless and cabless
Founded in 2016, Einride has carved out a niche in the autonomous trucking sector with its sleek “T-Pod” trucks that use electric propulsion and don’t have a cab or driver. There is a human backup: a remote driver who can take control of the vehicle when necessary. The pods have a battery capacity of 200 kWh and can haul freight for 124 miles on a full charge.
It also has orders from German retailer Lidl, Swedish delivery company Svenska Retursystem, and a few more Fortune 500 retail businesses. In May Einride secured a permit to operate on a public road in Jönköpingit.
Asked about the lessons learned from these early commercial applications, Falck said, simply, “It works.”
He continued: “It is absolutely doable to transport goods on public roads with the help of autonomous electric, and it can be done with both good cost and high reliability and also high functionality.”
Einride doesn’t sell its vehicles but offers freight hauling as a service.
Electric and autonomous go hand-in-hand
The environmental benefits of the Einride model are central to the mission. The automated electric system, Falck explained, solves one of the problems with electric propulsion in trucking – that you have higher operational costs because the driver has to charge the truck.
Eliminate the driver, and you eliminate that added cost.
“Autonomous and electric is cheaper than autonomous and diesel,” Falck said. “It is the best business case. We have the opportunity now with a great business case to create an emission- neutral alternative.”
Along with scaling up production of the vehicles — the company aspires to have 200 pods by 2021 — Einride is also hiring its first “digital truck drivers” to serve as the remote operators.
Falck said the job will require the same driving license but will of course require additional training. “They are better paying jobs,” he said, although he declined to specify further.
Autonomous trucks, yes — cars, not so much
Falck said he is among the skeptics who believe autonomous cars are “still quite a vast way in the future.” People still love to drive, he said, “and the business case behind optimizing cars is not that compelling.”
Moving cargo is another story, as many warehouse and factory jobs have already transitioned to autonomous transport.
The transition to autonomy will be more seamless than people expect, he said, and looking back, we’ll see that “the transition will have happened slowly, slowly, slowly, and then suddenly.”
Einride’s Series A investment was co-led by the EQT Ventures fund, the European venture capital fund with commitments of over €566 million ($621.1 million) and NordicNinja VC, a tech focused €101 million Nordic & Baltic fund backed by Panasonic, Honda, Omron and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.