One human operator, many autonomous trucks (with video)

Einride, the remote autonomous electric truck startup, has released a video showing how a lone remote driver has the ability to monitor and control multiple self-driving vehicles at the same time from a single remote drive station.

The Swedish company had intended to offer a live demonstration for its first public showcase but reverted to a video demonstration in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vision behind the demonstration involves up to 10 simultaneously monitored vehicles — Einride refers to them as electric pods — in a transportation network. The pods can also be controlled remotely for complicated maneuvers, such as parking at a loading dock or avoiding an obstacle in the road.

Einride operators have been able to control several vehicles at a time since the company first started development, CEO Robert Falck told FreightWaves.

“But switching between vehicles was not an instantaneous process,” he said, explaining that the latest innovation showcases the operator’s ability to switch “on the fly,” laying the groundwork for operators to oversee several vehicles simultaneously.

The company can also switch between operators in different geographical locations, according to Falck, “increasing the flexibility of our system exponentially.”

Einride, like other autonomous trucking companies, has long touted the environmental and labor efficiencies of its system. Its twist on the self-driving concept is the role of the remote operator, who monitors and controls the driverless vehicles from afar.

Also benefitting from the Einride platform is the truck driver, who can be retrained to operate the electric vehicles remotely, eliminating the need to perform what Falck describes as the “tedious” tasks of  loading and unloading, refueling, or recharging.

“They [operators] don’t need to sleep in a vehicle,” Falck told FreightWaves in an earlier interview. “They can work in an office environment and then go home.”

The hiring process for Einride’s first remote operator is already underway in Sweden, and the first customer applications will be implemented this year. Also in 2020 the company plans to enter the U.S. market.

Falck declined to comment on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on operations or funding, saying only that the benefits of “truly driverless freight” are “certainly evident” in a pandemic. 

“No driver on board means less risk for everyone in a supply chain, from manufacturer and shipper to customer,” he said.