Nov 4, 2021 - Technology

Truck driving is a desk job at this freight tech company

Image of a driverless Einride Pod at a GE Appliances warehouse

There is no room for a driver in the Einride Pod. Remote drivers monitor its operation from a computer. Photo: Einride

Truck driving is becoming a desk job at Einride, the Swedish company whose electric Pods are now plying the freight yards at GE Appliances' 750-acre campus in Louisville, Kentucky.

Why it matters: The company's fleet of electric, autonomous trucks could be a model for the commercial freight industry, which faces a shortage of truck drivers and demands to reduce its carbon emissions.

How it works: Einride's trucks don't have a cab, which means there's no room for a driver on board.

  • Instead, the trucks operate autonomously, with a remote truck driver — or “Pod operator” — monitoring the journey behind a computer screen, ready to take over if necessary.
  • For example: a remote operator could take the wheel virtually to navigate a construction zone or handle last-minute instructions in a dynamic loading dock.
  • The goal is for remote drivers to monitor and control as many as 10 Pods at once, CEO and founder Robert Falck tells Axios.

Having a "human in the loop" allows the technology to be more readily adopted — in stages, he says.

  • The trucks will start in private freight yards, then gradually move to public roads and highways.
  • "Our ambition is to have at least 90% autonomous for different routes," he said.
  • Yes, but: U.S. regulations don't currently allow such trucks on public roadways, which means their practical use could be limited for some time.

Driving the news: Einride this week announced it is setting up U.S. operations in New York and introduced a U.S. version of its Einride Pod and a new Flatbed Pod.

  • It plans to create more than 2,000 U.S. jobs within five years, including remote Pod operators.
  • Remote drivers will have better pay, safer working conditions "and much better coffee," which could make the job more attractive, Falck said.
Image of a woman driving a truck remotely in a snowy landscape.
A remote driver monitors an Einride truck in Sweden. Photo: Einride
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