July 6, 2017 - There's a big new self-driving vehicle primed to hit the roads, and it's like nothing you've ever seen before. It's technically a truck — but it looks much more like a new age spacecraft than any semi on today's highways.
Einride, the trucking company that rolled out an ambitious plan to disrupt the current freight transportation industry and introduce emission-free, self-driving trucking to the world, just got closer to actually hitting its aggressive goal.
The startup officially unveiled its first prototype of the T-pod, a fully electric, autonomous truck that Einride claims could help cut Sweden's freight-related emissions by 60 percent by 2030. We haven't seen a road test yet, but the pod's design is more than enough to turn some heads.
The 23-foot long, 20-ton capacity T-pod is smaller than most semi trucks used today, and its 200 km (124 miles) per charge range is more limited than current trucks, too. The company isn't phased by the shortcomings, though. Instead, Einride says its vehicles are much more efficient and sustainable than gas-powered big rigs.
The pods can be controlled by remote operators or drive itself, removing the need for in-cab human drivers entirely — and if you take a look at the design, you can immediately see that an old-fashioned concept like manual human driving was never in the cards. There's no windshield for a trucker to look out from, let alone a driver or passenger door.
The first 200 pods are projected to hit the road in Sweden by 2020, traveling a route between the cities of Gothenburg and Helsingborg that will be built up with the necessary charging and operational infrastructure.
Einride claims it has already filled up a client list for 60 percent of the total 200 T-pods that will run during the first trials. The company says those pilot pods will be hauling up to 2,000,000 pallets per year, while conserving the equivalent CO2 emissions of 400,000 passenger cars driving along the route.
Einride says the pilot could begin running sooner than its original 2020 target date, thanks to "overwhelming interest from potential and signed clients."
The Swedish company is far from the only company looking to bring autonomous trucks to the highways of the world. Industry giants like Waymo, Uber, and PACCAR have recently made waves with self-driving trucks, while smaller startups like Embark are also staking their claim on the highways of the future.
All of those companies are just adding a new wrinkle to the existing freight system, however. If Einride's electric, emission free pods can fulfill its potential, we might be looking at true disruption to the trucking industry.