On May 15, 2019, Swedish startup Einride launched an autonomous tractor-trailer on a public road in Sweden. It began operating on a short stretch of road in the transport hub of Jönköping. The trial run is set to run until 2020, and is the first time a fully autonomous vehicle without a backup driver has been allowed on a public road in Sweden. The “T-pod” truck is, however, supervised remotely by an operator who can take control of the truck if necessary.
The 52,000 pound truck is equipped with cameras, radars and 3D sensors, giving it a 360-degree awareness of its surroundings. It uses an autonomous driving platform made by NVIDIA, and its systems are connected via a 5G network. It has a range of 124 miles and its top speed is 53mph, but is governed to 3mph during the trial. In Europe, the truck driver shortage is about 150,000 drivers, whereas in the U.S., it’s estimated to be about 60,000.
Trucks such as the T-Pod have the potential to right the worldwide labor shortage for truck drivers, and in the short term, the potential is clear for use as “yard dogs,” freeing up those drivers for other use at the terminal, or over the road. How truck driver unions view this technology remains to be seen.