The autonomous vehicle revolution is upon us, and it will be bigger than expected. While most consider the boon of self-driving vehicles to be ride-hailing, the true value of autonomous driving technology will come from the commercial transportation sector. The future of delivery vehicles will be self-driving trucks and vans.
Swedish self-driving truck company Einride announced U.S. expansion
According to a Reuters report, Sweden-based autonomous vehicle technology firm Einride has announced that it will expand its operations to the United States. Along with the move to the U.S. market, Einride announced that it had signed three clients: GE Appliances, vegan milk maker Oatly, and Bridgestone tires.
The autonomous vehicle company is already operating a fleet of 20 “Einride Pods,” an electric self-driving truck with no steering wheel, pedals, or cabin for a human driver. The pods are in use at the Louisville HQ of GE Appliances.
The self-driving delivery trucks are currently set up to operate inside Einride’s customers’ facilities, which means they do not require a backup human driver since they run on private property.
However, the company has plans to “take this outside the fence” and operate on public roads. It is working with U.S. regulators to obtain the proper permits to achieve that goal.
“There is huge potential for automation and electrification in the U.S. market and the next step for us scale up with our customers,” said Einride CEO Robert Faick.
So far, Einride has raised $150 million from investors.
Autonomous delivery vehicles are on the rise
Many technology firms are rushing to be the leader of commercialized self-driving trucks and other autonomous delivery vehicles. The growth potential is attracting the likes of Google-backed Waymo, Tesla, and more.
Major retailers could see massive value in self-driving delivery trucks as they have several advantages over freight vehicles operated by human drivers. Self-driving trucks only need to stop to load, unload, and charge batteries. Additionally, medium-sized cars could be designed with more space for cargo as driver cabins are not required. Though easily the biggest benefit is that there is no driver to pay. That is bad news for professional truck drivers but good news for Retailer’s bottom lines.
For proof that there is significant interest in this business segment, one only needs to look at companies such as Nuro. Nuro manufactures a small autonomous delivery vehicle called the R2 that is just big enough to deliver things like groceries, hot food, and other goods. Nuro recently secured $600 million in funding from investors such as Google.
Will autonomous vehicles eliminate jobs?
With the rise of self-driving trucks and other autonomous vehicles, some wonder if the advancement of this technology will eliminate thousands, if not millions, of driver jobs. The CEOs of autonomous vehicle companies will dance around that question with responses highlighting the new jobs that the self-driving vehicle market may bring.
However, as driverless vehicles become more common and are hired by major retailers, it is most likely that human drivers for freight and delivery will eventually become obsolete.
Though, it should be noted that autonomous vehicles are not always perfect. Recently, a San Francisco neighborhood made the news as several Waymo autonomous ride-hailing vehicles got stuck on a dead-end street. Apparently, the culdesac confused the self-driving algorithm of the Jaguar I-PACE driverless vehicles.
Will Einride catch up to other companies such as Aurora and Waymo? It is possible, but it will need much more funding to do that. Perhaps an Einride IPO is in the future?