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Einride’s driverless, cabless electric trucks hit the mass market

Plus: How the Swedes got a head start on autonomous trucking

(Photo credit: Einride)

  • Swedish trucking startup Einride makes its autonomous electric “Pods” available for pre-order.
  • Expert: Sweden’s collaborative, vehicle-centric economy drives autonomous trucking leadership.

Fresh off a $10 million raise, Swedish trucking technology startup Einride has put its autonomous electric trucks on the global market. Until now, the vehicles, known as “Pods,” had been deployed only in pilot projects.

CEO Robert Falck declined to tell FreightWaves how much the Pods would cost, saying only that the vehicles will require a $10,000 deposit to preorder. They can be reserved by customers in the U.S. and abroad.

Additionally, operation of the Pods requires a monthly subscription fee to Einride’s freight mobility platform, a system that helps fleets track manage the transition to electrification and autonomy.

No cab, no driver

Founded in 2016, Einride has carved out a niche with its science fiction-esque Pods that use electric propulsion and, notably, don’t have cabs or drivers. 

The company blasted ahead of the competition last year, when it became the first to operate an autonomous truck on a public road (for several hundred meters) without a human driver.

Einride’s approach to autonomy does feature remote operators, who can take control of the vehicle when the driving conditions require human intervention, such as backing up in a complex environment or making a difficult left turn.

Its freight mobility operating system debuted last spring.

A focus on short haul, for now

Einride’s global launch, announced on Thursday, features a range of Pods categorized by their duty cycle. All are developed for Level 4 self-driving, meaning the vehicle can drive itself under most conditions. 

The AET (Autonomous Electric Transport) 1 and 2, available in 2021, are suitable for short haul drayage and yard facilities. To date, Einride has focused its resources on those applications. The AET 3 and 4 are designed for long-distance highways and larger warehouses, and Einride is targeting those use cases as the company grows, according to Falck. They will be available starting in 2023. 

Prior to the pandemic, Einride had planned to hire its first remote drivers by the end of the year. They now are expected to come on board in 2021, Falck said.

Customers will own the Pods, but Einride will be “primarily responsible” for hiring and training the remote operators.

The Nordic edge

The past few months have seen a spate of activity in the autonomous trucking space. Notably, San Diego-based TuSimple announced partnerships with Navistar and the TRATON Group, while Ike, headquartered in San Francisco, partnered with Ryder System, DHL and NFI Industries to test its driverless technology.

But Einride’s go-to-market launch appears to be another first for the industry. At least partial credit goes to Sweden’s collaborative and “vehicle- centric economy,” said Richard Bishop, an authority on autonomous trucks who runs his own consultancy.

“There’s a willingness to make things happen,” Bishop told FreightWaves.

Home to Volvo and Scania, Sweden is a small country where “everyone knows each other,” he added. “It’s easy to work together with regulators. Everyone is pulling together in the same direction.”

The U.S., by contrast, is largely a patchwork of statewide AV regulations, with federal regulators so far taking a mostly hands-off approach.

Einride expanded into the U.S. earlier this year with an office in Silicon Valley. Its North American deployment will create some competition with domestic AV companies, said Bishop, singling out in particular Gatik, a company that focuses on the so-called “middle mile,” off-highway segment of the delivery process.

Einride offers “a pretty unique custom vehicle, and they will find customers for sure,” Bishop said.

According to Einride, businesses that use the Pods will reduce their transportation costs by up to 60% and CO2 emissions by 90%.

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]