By Seth Clevenger, Transport Topics
An unmanned cargo vehicle operated by Swedish startup Einride has begun transporting goods on a regular basis for GE Appliances at a private site in Selmer, Tenn., the companies announced Nov. 13.
Einride’s autonomous electric transport, or AET, is moving finished air conditioning units from GE Appliances’ manufacturing facility to its nearby warehouse via a private roadway Mondays through Thursdays.
The electric-powered autonomous vehicle, which has no cab or steering wheel, crawls forward at a methodical pace, moving at an average speed of 3 mph on a newly constructed transport lane. The private roadway is owned by GE Appliances but open to other vehicles, although the road does not see much traffic, an Einride spokesman said. Each trip covers about 0.3 mile.
Einride said the route illustrates how autonomous vehicles can be deployed through its freight-capacity-as-a-service model, in which shippers pay a monthly subscription to access the company’s vehicles, software, maintenance and support.
Tiffany Heathcott, the first remote operator hired by Einride, works on-site to monitor the vehicle’s progress as it transports goods autonomously.
This long-term deployment builds upon Einride’s previous collaboration with GE Appliances. The companies tested the autonomous vehicle in a gated environment in 2021 and conducted an unmanned pilot on a public road in Selmer in 2022.
“We are very proud to partner with GE Appliances and be able to lead the industry in providing autonomous technology and deploying it in the strongest commercial use case today,” said Henrik Green, general manager of autonomous technologies at Einride.
Einride’s AET is part of a broader project aimed at creating an automated logistics system that improves worker safety and efficiency at GE Appliances’ site in Selmer.
The home appliance manufacturer also has partnered with other technology developers such as TaskWatch and Slip Robotics.
TaskWatch is providing artificial intelligence-enabled cameras to trigger a control board to raise and lower the dock doors and lock the Einride vehicle in place. Then the Slip robot automatically loads and unloads the vehicle, reducing loading times by 80%.
“This implementation in Selmer is helping us reduce emissions, allowing our employees to focus on high-value tasks, reducing traffic in congested areas to create a safer work environment, and eliminating some of the most challenging ergonomic tasks like climbing on and off a forklift and hooking and unhooking trailers,” Harry Chase, senior director of central materials at GE Appliances, said in the announcement. “We believe robotics and automation technology should work with and for people to improve their jobs.”
Einride, founded in 2016, is developing and deploying a range of connected electric and autonomous commercial vehicles, along with charging infrastructure and fleet management technology to support them.