Self-driving trucks are attracting a lot of investment and attention, what with Otto’s drama and platooning tech developed by key players like Peloton, but Swedish transport startup Einride has a different vision of how freight will move around roads in the future. The company revealed its ‘T-Pod’ design Thursday, an electric vehicle with self-driving capabilities that can carry 15 pallets of goods 124 miles while producing zero emissions.
The T-Pod isn’t a truck in the traditional sense; it’s more like a boxcar with an electric motor and remote operating capabilities. While it’s capable self-driving, Einride notes that it also can be driven remotely, giving it additional capabilities that current autonomous driving tech can’t manage (existing automated transport truck tech requires human drivers to take over once the vehicles leave the highway).
Einride plans to start testing the T-Pod this year, so this also isn’t a tremendously far-flung future innovation. The plan is to follow testing with international distribution, and to help develop an infrastructure of charging stations that can help the T-Pods extend their active range and complete longer routes.
The 7 meter (23 foot)-long T-Pod has a total weight of 20 tons when loaded down fully with cargo, which is smaller than most transport trucks. But platooning the vehicles can replicate the transport power of larger vehicles, while keeping range and efficiency at their best. Also, because the vehicles are designed to be remotely piloted, they don’t incur additional idle work time for drivers while they’re stopped and recharging.
Einride says it hopes to get the T-Pods into active service with a total fleet size of around 200 vehicles by 2020, which is ambitious given its relative youth. But the idea definitely has a lot of merit, and all the fundamental tech pieces appear to be in place to ke this possible.