The world is ready to accept electric semi trucks, but is it ready to accept one with no driver in the cab?
Swedish startup Einride is betting that the answer to that question is yes. Founded in 2016 by two Swedish businessmen, Einride is preparing to introduce its T-Pod concept -- billed by its creators as the first electric, remote-control or autonomous semi truck in the world -- to America at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.
Einride has already entered into a partnership with European grocery store chain Lidl's Swedish arm, Lidl Sverige (which is best known outside Sweden for being deeply committed to offsetting its carbon emissions and for one store poisoning homeless people in 2008). Lidl hopes to be using Einride's T-Pods by the third quarter of 2018, provided the necessary permits and licenses for Lidl's proposed fleet of self-driving vehicles are in place.
"The T-Pod is part of the Einride transport system that uses new technology to create a cost-competitive and sustainable alternative to today's trucks. This invention makes today's truck as outdated as horse and carriage and just as cost-[competitive]," Einride CEO Robert Falck said in a statement.
One of the more distinctive aspects of the Einride plan for Swedish trucking dominance is its idea of running more frequent, smaller shipments over shorter distances, as evidenced by its relatively small size of just 23 feet and operating weight of 20 tons. This would, in theory, negate the need for massive leaps in battery technology or significant investment in battery development by Einride itself. It would also make the problem of a charging network much more straightforward.
Whether Einride turns out to be real or just vaporware, the ideas put forth make a great deal of sense economically for many companies and we expect to see similar electric autonomous truck startups with similar business models begin to pop up soon.