For the first time, a remotely monitored autonomous electric truck designed to operate without a driver onboard has received approval to drive on public roads in the United States, Swedish freight technology company Einride announced June 23.
Founded in 2016, Einride currently operates Europe’s largest fleet of electric trucks and works with industry giants such as Coca-Cola, appliance giant Electrolux and German grocery store chain Lidl in Europe. In, 2019, Einride became the first company to deploy an autonomous electric freight vehicle on a public road, in Sweden.
Now Einride has received approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to operate its autonomous electric transport vehicles, called Pods, on U.S. public roads. The Pod’s design does not leave room for a driver on board and is instead remotely monitored by an operator from a distance.
“This is a type of vehicle that has never before been seen on U.S. roads and marks a major milestone as a turning point for the future of the freight industry,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder at Einride, said in a statement. “We know the autonomous and electric technology of our pod will not only revolutionize transportation but also create thousands of jobs and help America stay competitive.”
With this approval, Einride will conduct a public road pilot in the third quarter of 2022 at a manufacturing facility belonging to GE Appliances, a Haier company, to complement other existing operations already in place together. Einride was the first to have a fleet of operational autonomous and electric vehicles on U.S. soil in partnership with GE Appliances in 2021.
The Einride Pod will operate on public roads with mixed traffic while executing real life workflows. This will include the movement of goods and coordinating with teams at various warehouses for loading and unloading. A human operator will remotely monitor the vehicle at all times, a role that Einride sees critical in safely scaling autonomous vehicles by keeping humans in the loop and creating jobs to fulfill a future way of shipping.
“We are creating a more sustainable and efficient supply chain through increased electrification and automation in our manufacturing and distribution operations,” Bill Good, vice president of supply Chain for GE Appliances, said in a statement. “We’ve appreciated working with Einride in demonstrating how their Pod technology can help us accelerate achievement of that goal.”