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Outrider extends autonomous distribution yard work to backing up trailers

Reducing trailer damage is big gain from precision movement of trailers small to large

Autonomous freight handling by startup Outrider now includes driverless yard tractors precisely backing iup trailers to docks. (Photo: Outrider)

Outrider, which automates distribution yards for driverless movement of freight in tight quarters of logistics-dependent operations, is adding autonomous trailer movement to its expertise.

“Distribution yards are critical links in the supply chain and prime targets for automating the flow of goods between over-the-road transportation and fulfillment centers, warehouses and manufacturing plants,” Outrider founder and CEO Andrew Smith said in a press release.

Backing trailers of all kinds safely and precisely into parking spots and dock spots occurs billions of times a year.

“This proprietary technology enables autonomous yard trucks to back trailers into tight spaces with precision and without modifications to trailers,” Smith said.

Challenge of articulated backing

Articulated backing is among trucking’s most challenging maneuvers, especially in confined distribution yards. Backing technology is crucial to autonomous yard operations because a variety of trailers must be backed on-center and in exact contact with dock spots.  

Using its autonomous yard tractors, Outrider can seamlessly control 28-foot, 48-foot or 53-foot dry or refrigerated vans through their full range of motion without teleoperation or human interaction. 

“By developing advanced algorithms and integrating with sensors and actuation, we’ve delivered the accurate trailer backing necessary for yard automation,” said Jeremy Nett, vice president of software engineering. Outrider validated the trailer backing at its advanced testing facility and at customer sites.

The Outrider System integrates management software, autonomous vehicles and site infrastructure. In 2021, Outrider debuted centrally managed and monitored autonomous trailer hitching and unhitching, robotic connection and disconnection of trailer brake lines, and safe interaction with loading docks,

“While other autonomous vehicle companies focus on safely pulling trailers down a highway, Outrider is focused on efficiently moving the world’s freight through congested distribution yards,” Smith said. “With this backing technology, our customers can automate their distribution yards as they continue to respond to the global demand for their products.”

Founded in 2017, Golden, Colorado-based Outrider has raised $118 million and claims 11 large enterprise customers. Of those, only Georgia-Pacific has been publicly identified.  

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.