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Outrider reins in $65 million to automate distribution yards

(Photo credit: Outrider)

The freight industry is inching closer to electrification and autonomy, and much of the action is taking place in the distribution yard.

Among the beneficiaries is Outrider, a startup that automates operations for logistics hubs. 

On Wednesday, the Golden, Colorado-based company announced it had closed $65 million in Series B funding. Koch Disruptive Technologies led the round, with participation from existing investors NEA, 8VC and Prologis Ventures. New investors included Henry Crown and Company and Evolv Ventures. 

The money will be used to continue to scale across customers’ distribution networks, CEO Andrew Smith told FreightWaves, as well build out and protect intellectual property and staff the organization. 

The yard is the thing

Distribution yards play a key role in the supply chain, keeping trailers full of freight moving quickly in the space between the warehouse doors and public roads. The repetitive nature of the work, as well as the relatively short distances traveled, make logistics hubs ideal targets for electrification and autonomy.

Nevertheless, the majority of yards still depend largely on manual operations and as such are rife with congestion and idling trucks.

Outrider mitigates those impacts by automating and electrifying the environment. Its core offering consists of a software and hardware package enabling customers to move trailers to and from loading docks and parking spots, hitch and unhitch trailers, robotically connect and disconnect trailer brake lines.

Yard managers can use the software to control and monitor the entire process.

Electric vehicles don’t emit carbon, a key goal of the company’s Fortune 500 customers, Smith said. Plus, electric vehicles offer a better platform for autonomy, he asserts, due to their reduced maintenance, lower operating costs and reliable, clean power.

Outrider sources electric truck platforms from OEMs, then lays on top of the vehicle the software and hardware.

It’s been a busy year for company, which claims at least eight Fortune 500 customers. (It is revealing the name of only one: Georgia Pacific.) The latest raise comes less than one year after Outrider came out of stealth with a Series A round of $53 million. And Outrider’s headcount, now at 110 employees, has increased by 50% since January.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Smith said.

Eyeing all aspects of yard operations

Among the fast-moving companies aiming to make the yard space more efficient is PINC, a digital yard management solution that went on a growth tear over the past six months, acquiring Wabtec TMS, joining forces with supply chain Internet of Things platform project44 and accepting a significant growth equity investment.

Across the Atlantic, Swedish electric autonomous vehicle company Einride got its start targeting distribution yards. The company has opened offices in the U.S. and will make its cabless electric trucks available here next year, CEO Robert Falck told FreightWaves.

Related stories:

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

PINC parent company acquires Wabtec TMS

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].