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NewsTechnology

Ike lines up fleet customers for driverless trucks

Ryder System, DHL and NFI Industries will test driverless truck software on highways

Autonomous trucking software developer Ike is partnering with three major logistics customers to deploy highly automated Level 4 trucks for highway driving, the startup said Tuesday.

Logistics providers Ryder System, Inc. (NYSE: R), DHL, and NFI Industries will be among the first customers, Ike said in a press release announcing the multi-year “Powered by Ike” program. Other participants will be named later.

Ike’s vision is for automated trucks to drive on the highway. They would hand off loads to truckers ito move them to and from the interstate. Its approach simplifies automation by leaving street driving to skilled truckers. Ike cited a 2019 Yale University study of its approach. The study concluded automation could create 140,000 new local truck driving jobs by 2030 

Race to autonomy

The race to get driverless trucks on the road includes TuSimple, a startup that runs revenue-generating commercial routes in the southwest U.S. TuSimple is partnering with Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) to sell a Class 8 driverless tractor by 2024. Other truck makers, including Daimler Trucks, plan Level 4 entries later in the decade.

Others testing autonomous trucks include startups Embark and Aurora, and Waymo, the autonomous-driving unit of Alphabet parent Google. Level 4 autonomy means the truck can operate without human interaction in most driving conditions.

Ike’s customers collectively have reserved 1,000 trucks for testing leading to commercial launch. The partners are collaborating in several areas to provide feedback, perform testing, and prepare to launch and scale operations.

Software subscriptions

Instead of creating its own fleet of trucks, Ike provides self-driving technology directly to fleets through an annual software subscription model. Fleets will get support services such as integration into digital tools to dispatch and manage the automated trucks, maintenance of new equipment, roadside support, and access for the physical handoff of freight to truckers.

“We are focused on building technology that will help make trucking safer and more productive,”  Alden Woodrow, CEO and co-founder of Ike, said in the release. “We want to put all our effort behind systems engineering, computer vision, and validation. 

“Working with these sophisticated fleet partners allows us to plug Ike’s automation solution into huge existing logistics networks that already know how to move goods efficiently. Our skill sets are complementary, and we think we can make the most progress by working together.”

Ryder, which is involved in several electrification pilots for trucking, relishes its role in research and development of new technologies, said Karen Jones, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Ryder.

“Working with an automation technology leader such as Ike is a continuation of this journey,” she said in the release.

The growing need for middle- and last-mile delivery of food and critical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic likewise accelerates the need for technology solutions like automated driving, said  Jim Monkmeyer, president, Transportation, DHL Supply Chain North America. 

Innovation leaders

“Ike’s automation solution is an excellent fit for DHL Supply Chain’s accelerated digitalization approach, and will allow us to continue making our customers’ supply chains more secure, flexible, and robust to handle future challenges like the one we have all faced in 2020,” he said.

NFI Industries, which is testing a fleet of 10 Freightliner eCascadia electric Class 8 trucks, said experimenting with self-driving trucks is a natural extension.

 “Our approach to innovation and the people that deliver our solutions are key to the customer value that NFI delivers,” said Ike Brown, NFI president and vice chairman. “We are excited to add to our growing innovation portfolio and accelerate the supply chain industry.”  

Ike, founded in 2018 by veterans of Google, Apple, and Uber, has raised more than $52 million from technology investors based in San Francisco and Detroit.

Related articles:

Ike files voluntary safety report

Navistar to sell driverless semis in 2024

NFI sees explosive growth for its Class 8 electric truck fleet

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

One Comment

  1. I would encourage every driver out here to quit this industry as soon as possible. Beat these companies to the punch even if it .means crippling the industry temporarily. This is a greed driven approach under the guise of safety and while it will be decades before it could do what a driver does, it would be poetic to see these companies go bankrupt.

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