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Outrider raises $73M to scale autonomous distribution yard business

Colorado startup keeps focus on logistics of moving trailers with no hands

Colorado startup Outrider, which transforms distribution yards into automated operations, has raised $73 million in a Series C round.

Outrider Inc., which transforms hazard-filled distribution yards into near-touchless automated operations, has raised $73 million in a Series C funding round.

It plans to use the money to complete final capabilities and safety mechanisms. It also plans to grow from its 175 employees by hiring more engineers domestically and in Europe. Golden, Colorado-based Outrider also plans to scale the sales of its software package to customers. They represent more than 20% of 50,000 yard trucks operating in North America.

“Outrider continues to be focused on automating that critical linkage in the supply chain that’s between the over-the-road trucking and what’s happening inside the warehouse,” CEO and founder Andrew Smith told FreightWaves. “This round continues to position us to be two to three years ahead of anyone following on our coattails.”

One of those potential competitors, Munich, Germany-based Fernride, is piloting a project for highly automated and
electric container logistics at the HHLA TK terminal in Tallinn, Estonia. HHLA’s Next unit is investing an undisclosed amount in the project.

Outrider claims multiple Fortune 200 customers

Founded in 2017, Outrider claims numerous customers among the Fortune 200. Nondisclosure agreements prohibit naming them publicly, but paper products maker Georgia-Pacific was identified by Outrider as an early customer.

The latest funding round is Outrider’s first since its Series B in 2020. It brings the total capital raised to $191 million. FM Capital led the Series C round and managing partner Mark Norman will join Outrider’s board of directors.

Over the last 18 months, Outrider has pioneered autonomous yard trucks that hitch and unhitch  the millions of trailers in use, developed articulated driverless backing of those trailers and applied a robotic arm to connect and disconnect air lines from the trailers. 

Outrider’s autonomous distribution yard technologies include robot arms that can connect and disconnect air lines to trailers its autonomous yard tractors move around the yard. (Photo: Outrider)

The Outrider system interacts with semi-trucks, delivery and service vehicles. It integrates with supply chain management systems while keeping track of where trailers are in the yard. The technologies are packaged in a suite of software Outrider began selling in July.

“Outrider has addressed all the pieces — technology, safety, operations, and support — needed to deploy a reliable, industrial-grade system at scale,” Norman said in a news release.

Autonomous yard trucks not enough for Outrider

Trucking moves more than 20 billion tons of freight each year. Almost all of it passes through distribution yards, which are hard to staff and create supply chain bottlenecks. Repetitive, manual tasks often are undertaken in potentially hazardous conditions.

“Goods are moving 24/7. With COVID and even beyond, the explosion of e-commerce has made the challenges of yard truck labor even higher,” Norman told FreightWaves. “Low-speed operations are just a fantastic application for automation and autonomy.”

That requires more than autonomous yard trucks, which Outrider gets from Orange EV.

“There’s a number of discrete technologies and discreet teams of people that need to be in place to get this integrated system to come together,” Smith said. Remote-control teleoperated vehicles is not the answer.

“We’ve calculated our system as about 50 times more cost-effective than paying somebody to sit there and try to drive a vehicle remotely,” Smith said. “This is full L-4 [Level 4] autonomy.”

The cost savings over traditional yard operations approach 40%, Smith said, and that doesn’t count sustainability, safety and productivity benefits.

Investors like Outrider’s prospects

“The company is a case study in bringing advanced robotics and autonomy technology to market,” Norman said. “That integrated solution is ready for prime time. And that was compelling for us and our investors to lead this round.

“The thing that’s exciting is Outrider’s [ability] to make money and to create value the old-fashioned way, in cash flow,” he said. “That’s attractive to a lot of players down the road, be they financial, be they a large logistics company or as an independent stand-alone.”

In addition to FM Capital, C round participants included new investors Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; Nvidia’s venture capital group, NVentures; B37 Ventures; Lineage Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Lineage Logistics; Presidio Ventures, the venture capital arm of Sumitomo Corp.; and ROBO Global Ventures. Existing investors participating included Koch Disruptive Technologies and New Enterprise Associates.

Outrider puts the (robotic) arm to autonomous yard trucks

Outrider extends autonomous distribution yard work to backing up trailers

CEO: ‘Yard of the future’ is autonomous and electric

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.