Last summer, Swedish startup Einride began testing its self-driving electric trucks at a closed facility at GE Appliances in Tennessee. The machines were also released onto a one and a half kilometer public road, but this month regular operation was launched in the closed territory of the mentioned GEA enterprise.
The driverless electric trucks will travel along a fixed route of about 480 meters between the warehouse and the GEA facility. Their main task will be the transportation of goods without human intervention; up to seven trips will be made per work shift; trucks will run automatically from Monday to Thursday inclusive. They will not leave the territory of the enterprise, but the precedent is important from the point of view that for the first time regular cargo transportation is being launched using electric transport, which does not imply the presence of a driver in the cabin. There is simply no room for it structurally, and Einride prototypes were initially focused on SAE level 4 autonomous control.
GE Appliances partners with other companies that are ready to automate other stages of logistics operations. TaskWatch cameras with image recognition will be used to proactively open warehouse gates and send a signal to the Slip robot, which will be used to automate loading operations. Using a robot for these purposes, according to GEA, will reduce the loading and unloading time of vehicles by 80%. Ericsson provided the experiment participants with high-speed and reliable communications so that a remote operator could monitor the behavior of the automated truck and, if necessary, intervene in its operation.