Einride Begins Regular Unmanned Moves for GE Appliances

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.

Daimler Truck North America Commits $1.3M To Support PSU

By University Communications, Portland State University

Daimler Truck North America has made a $1.3 million philanthropic investment to support faculty and students in Portland State University’s School of Business and its Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The commitment will provide scholarships and assistantships for undergraduates and graduate students in business and engineering. It will also provide support to establish two professorships, one in the PSU School of Business and one in the PSU Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“We are honored by this gift from a key regional employer whose industry leadership and community investments have long had a profound impact on Oregon,” said PSU President Ann Cudd. “Portland State educates a diverse talent pipeline for business and industry. We look forward to deepening a relationship that has been great for students, beneficial for Daimler Truck and important to Portland.”

As the state’s urban-serving public university, PSU educates the largest percentage of diverse, first-generation students — more than 80% of whom remain in the region when they graduate, contributing to Oregon’s long-term growth and stability.

“Daimler Truck North America has long had a strong partnership with PSU, with more than 600 alumni working here over the years,” said Angela Lentz, chief people officer for Daimler Truck North America. “This philanthropic commitment is intended to help build a talent pipeline, enhance research collaborations around industry-applicable topics, and drive regional business and industry growth.”

“Daimler Truck and PSU share fundamental areas of overlapping interest and expertise in engineering and business,” said Joseph Bull, dean of the PSU Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. “By leveraging these capabilities, we can jointly pursue research collaborations in areas such as autonomous vehicles and advanced manufacturing, and pursue innovative solutions to emerging challenges.”

“The fact that this gift supports faculty and students alike reflects Daimler Truck’s long-term partnership with the university,” said Cliff Allen, dean of the PSU School of Business. “For decades, Daimler Truck leaders have shared industry knowledge, reviewed curriculum and research findings, and mentored high-potential students. They have worked alongside us to inspire tomorrow’s diverse talent.”

NC A&T Shows Off New Self-Driving Vehicles

By Zyneria Byrd, Spectrum News 1

GREENSBORO, NC — North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University unveiled a fleet of new self-driving vehicles for a new research pilot program.

Students, faculty, staff and community members can take the shuttles from campus to downtown Greensboro.

The fleet is made up of three self-driving shuttles that go no faster than 25 mph, a self-driving van and two regular sedans.

The shuttles can perform all driving tasks under specific circumstances, and a human driver can override and take control of the car. The cars are in compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the university said.

The purpose for the program is to bring autonomous vehicles to public and rural transportation.

“There are a lot of companies working on autonomous vehicles, said Dr. Ali Karimoddini, Professor and Director, CR2C2 Regional University Transportation Center at North Carolina A&T.

He said not many companies are working to use selfdriving vehicles for public transportation and rural transportaion.

“This is the gap that needs more effort and attention. And that’s what our research team is focused to address this gap,” he said.

After the pilot program, the research team will go over feedback from riders to make tweaks to the research to make the autonomous vehicles an even safer ride.

The autonomous vehicle pilot program will be open to the public on weekdays from Sept. 19 to Oct. 13th, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The two stops on this one-mile ride will begin at the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research and Innovation Complex to the Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum.

MnDOT Eyes Autonomous Vehicles to Close Transportation Gaps, Improve Safety

By Catharine Richert and Megan Burks, MPRNEWS

When you hear “autonomous vehicles,” you might think of big tech and Tesla. But the state thinks opportunity.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Connected and Automated Vehicles Director, Tara Olds, says she sees the technology as a chance to fix some persistent transportation problems in the state. Olds has helped oversee three pilot projects — in Rochester, Minn., White Bear Lake, Minn. and now Grand Rapids, Minn. — to explore how autonomous vehicles can improve road safety and access to transportation.

The active Grand Rapids project, goMARTI, is designed to give people with disabilities more options and independence by running in the evening and night. Existing services only run during the day.

Olds joined All Things Considered Thursday to share what she’s learning and her vision for autonomous vehicles in the state.

I want to start out with this title of yours: Connected and Automated Vehicles Director. Talk to me a little bit more about the ‘connected‘ part of your title. What does that refer to?

Connected is really looking at how all areas of transportation can connect to things. How can cars connect to one another? How can other vehicles connect to people walking on the street? How might they be able to use information from our roadway signs, or be able to understand what our signal is saying? Is it a green light, or is it a red light? All of these things allow for vehicles to have a better understanding of [their] surrounding, and also really enhances safety.

You have a project in Grand Rapids that’s meant to address another problem, which is access to transportation. Tell us more about that project. 

In this community in particular, a number of folks that use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, don’t have the same ability to get around their community due to limited transportation options. And so we were able to use this as a supplement, by operating at different hours than the other services that were offered. So it’s now allowing folks to move around their community in the evening and in the nighttime, allowing them to be more connected to people and have a little bit more autonomy. But I will note that the technology doesn’t always work 100 percent of the time, and that’s why we continue to test it.

So I’m based in Rochester and we had an autonomous vehicle in our city’s downtown for about a year. People were a bit confused about it. They didn’t totally know what it was for, or whether it was safe. So how much public education goes into launching these types of programs?

So that was our project that we called the Med City Mover. That was our first public research demonstration project, so we learned a lot, both from a technology side but also how we can engage with communities.

We had another project that recently just ended in White Bear Lake called Bear Tracks, and it was another shuttle. [Because of what we learned in Rochester, we had] a little bit more community involvement to help educate folks in the area and help us understand where they see opportunities best fit for this.

Both the Med City Mover and Bear Tracks are known as low speed autonomous vehicles. So they operate at, I’d say, a maximum speed of around 12 miles per hour. But sometimes it was operating as low as 3 to 7 miles per hour, depending on what the environment was. It also came to a number of stops in the roadway due to things like leaves [in the roadway], different weather conditions, or even steam rising from manholes, where the sensors were detecting that as a potential obstacle. And so these were designed to be incredibly safe and, with that being said, they kind of create a disruption.

We’ve heard a lot of folks who didn’t like how slow they were. We understand that and recognize that perhaps a downtown urban environment might not be the right place for these vehicles. It might be something more on like a dedicated pathway, where these don’t have the same interruption.

What role do you see Minnesota playing as these technologies develop? 

I think one of the biggest opportunities we have is to really look at how winter weather plays a role in this. So much of the testing, so much of the companies [developing autonomous vehicles] are in warm weather states. But Minnesota, along with a number of other Midwest states, has a lot of snow and a lot of cold weather. And quite frankly, we really are encouraging those partners to come and test here in our state, because we believe that if they’re creating transportation solutions that will work here in the summer months, we’d like to see them work all times of the year.

Additionally, we’d like to see how technology can be used in all parts of the state, not just our urban downtown environments, by looking at how they can be used on gravel roadways.

What responsibility do state and other public agencies have in helping to develop these technologies that companies stand to profit from? 

The reason that I like to be in this field and really play a role at the state in it is to ensure that the changes that we create for our transportation system really are addressing the needs of our people, not just creating new shiny technologies.

Phoenix is Emerging as the City of the Future

By Jessica Boehm, Axios

Phoenix is having a moment.

  • Recent major investments in computer chip manufacturing and electric and autonomous vehicles have made it the overnight darling of the U.S. innovation elite.

Why it matters: The broad attention is showing the world what local leaders have spent the past half-century trying to prove: This desert city can be a major player in global tech and manufacturing.

State of play: Arizona has attracted more semiconductor investment since 2020 than any other U.S. state — driven mainly by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s $40 billion facilities in north Phoenix.

  • Semiconductors are used in just about every electronic device — including electric and autonomous cars, fields in which Phoenix is also thriving.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving vehicles in metro Phoenix since 2017.

  • It recently doubled its local ride-hailing service area to cover 180 square miles, the largest fully autonomous service area in the world.
  • Five EV manufacturers have set up shop in Arizona since 2016, per the Arizona Commerce Authority.

How it happened: Government and business leaders pledged to diversify Phoenix’s construction-based economy after it collapsed during the 2008 housing crash.

  • They formed the Arizona Commerce Authority, offered incentives and relaxed regulations to lure new companies.

Yes, but: Those moves were built on the back of decades of groundwork, strategic investments — and maybe some dumb luck too.

Flashback: Metro Phoenix was home to several U.S. Air Force and Navy training bases during World War II, which made it a natural fit for post-war military manufacturing.

  • Motorola arrived in 1949, becoming the area’s first semiconductor facility.
  • Intel followed, opening its first fabrication plant in the area in 1980.
  • They attracted chemical suppliers, engineering outfits and other skilled manufacturing companies to metro Phoenix.

Meanwhile: The area has invited auto companies to test their products here for decades.

  • General Motors, Goodyear, Ford, Chrysler and others established proving grounds on the outskirts of town in the 1940s and 1950s.
  • Many still exist and are now used to test electric and autonomous vehicles.

What’s next: Homegrown innovation.

  • Intel has been around long enough to see some of its engineers leave and start their own ventures. For example: Footprint, a Gilbert, Arizona-based company designing alternatives to plastic food packaging.
  • Venture capitalists are finally taking the city’s startup scene seriously. In 2015, Arizona companies secured $396 million in VC money, per PitchBook. By 2018, that number had ballooned to $2.5 billion — though investments have slowed since.

Reality check: How far Phoenix’s national star rises depends on the city confronting some daunting challenges.

  • It’s facing big city problems like housing affordability for the first time — plus the increasingly dire challenge of water security.

Opinion: Autonomous Trucks Will Boost Safety While Cutting Costs for California Businesses

By Paul Cramer, Times of San Diego

More than 12,250 victims were killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes in my home county of Riverside in 2020. That’s not just a sobering statistic; it is a stark reminder of lost loved ones and members of our community.

Nearly 10% of California crashes involve a truck, and 1 in 3 long-haul truck drivers experience a serious crash in their career. As a small business owner, I’m concerned about our state’s unsafe roads and optimistic about the future of autonomous trucks for Riverside County and the rest of the state.

Regrettably, fearmongering and misinformation has California lawmakers considering putting the brakes on autonomous trucks in the Golden State with Assembly Bill 316. We should not preemptively ban AV trucks, but instead encourage California safety officials to put regulations and oversight in place to ensure the highest levels of safety for this new technology.

AV trucks do not get sleepy or distracted. They have 360-degree vision, seeing farther and more clearly, day or night, than human truck drivers. By removing fatal human errors, AV trucks stand to radically improve safety on our roads.

At the same time, businesses like mine are facing labor shortages, historic inflation and strangled supply chains. Rather than accept this as fate, AV trucks can pave the way for sustained prosperity and resiliency. The United States is short 80,000 truck drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations — a number set to double within the decade.

Deploying autonomous trucks can help alleviate the driver shortage by filling in the existing gaps, without replacing jobs. If the state indefinitely requires every AV truck have a human safety operator onboard, California will only be exacerbating the shortage, rather than unlocking the technology to bolster our supply chain resiliency.

Restricting autonomous trucks doesn’t just hurt the bottom lines of California businesses; every Californian is impacted when businesses and consumers don’t get essentials on time. Prices go up; shelves remain bare; items get crossed off menus. Business owners have been trying to cope with the supply chain crisis for nearly 3 years at this point.

Many autonomous truck developers are based right here in California, supporting jobs and communities in the state. Why would we turn this economic development away while nearby states like Arizona and Texas are welcoming them and securing the economic and safety benefits?

In addition to bolstering the state’s supply chain and helping to raise total economic output for all industries, autonomous trucks can also help us achieve our state’s climate goals. Autonomous trucks can help reduce fuel consumption by at least 10% due to their model driving behavior.

It’s bad enough that California’s regulators have yet to establish the safety regime to permit AV trucks to drive in the state. Right now, an autonomous truck could drive from the Port of Savannah, Ga., all the way across the country through seven states before needing to stop at the Colorado River — unable to cross into California. Yet AB 316 would prematurely skip ahead of the DMV and Highway Patrol’s regulations, permanently kneecapping this innovation’s opportunities.

California has long been an incubator of innovation. To radically improve safety, the state must harness our technological prowess and leadership to reflect today’s safety and economic realities, boosting our agriculture, manufacturing, retail and other industries throughout the state. To truly initiate the changes that Californians need, state lawmakers must unlock — not obstruct– autonomous trucks once the appropriate regulations are in place to ensure the safety of everyone.

There needs to be a start to this innovation and California needs to once again lead innovation for the rest of the country.

Autonomy and Road Safety: California Must Choose the Road to Travel

By Tara Andringa, the Orange County Register

For the past two decades, California has been the global leader in autonomous vehicle technology, revolutionizing how we transport people and goods. The state has developed a robust system for overseeing the development, testing, and deployment of highly automated vehicles; the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates the safety of this technology, has issued permits to 40 manufacturers through the most developed AV regulatory process of any state.

Autonomous vehicles can make California’s roads safer, reduce emissions, and bolster the state’s economy through the creation of new jobs. AVs have created thousands of jobs for people of all education and skill levels, and manufacturers are creating pathways to high-tech jobs that do not require four-year degrees. The autonomous trucking sector alone could increase the state’s economic activity by $7.9 billion in 2019 gross domestic product (GDP), according to a study from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation.

As AV technology matures, we are at a crossroads of determining how we can ensure the societal potential that the technology offers — such as greater road safety and new transportation options for people who can’t drive a car — while making sure we are ensuring that we are introducing these new technologies in a thoughtful, deliberate and safe manner.

The California Senate is considering legislation this week, which passed the Assembly recently, that would prohibit the operation of driverless trucks in the state by requiring every autonomous truck to also have a human driver inside. Sponsors of the bill argue that it is about improving road safety — but opponents point out that banning new safety technologies will reinforce the status quo of deaths on our highways and would overturn years of progress by California’s top safety regulators overseeing the safe integration of driverless trucks.

Advancing road safety in California

Every year, we see too many tragic injuries and deaths on our roads, too much pollution, and too much time wasted in gridlock. At the root of these challenges are human errors and choices: reckless, intoxicated, and distracted driving behaviors that lead to crashes, congestion, and hours spent idling in traffic.

And these trends are headed in the wrong direction: Approximately 4,407 Californians lost their lives in traffic crashes in 2022 — a 3% increase over the previous year. The size and weight of trucks make them particularly prone to causing severe crashes; according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the United States saw a 27 percent increase in fatalities in fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2020 — and 83% of those were not occupants of the truck.

The underlying technology of autonomous trucks has the potential to improve road safety for all California road users. By leveraging advanced sensors, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated algorithms, autonomous trucks are capable of detecting potential hazards, analyzing complex road conditions, and responding with unmatched speed and precision.

Unlike human drivers, autonomous trucks are not subject to fatigue, distraction, or impairment, ensuring constant attentiveness that prohibits crashes caused by human error.

Striking the balance

California’s highway safety experts have developed a framework that requires intensive testing, certification, and ongoing evaluation of autonomous trucks.

The DMV collaborates with industry stakeholders, researchers, and policymakers to develop this framework, addressing safety concerns while still allowing for the responsible and controlled deployment of autonomous trucks.

Assembly Bill 316 would close the door to this regulatory framework developed by the state’s top safety experts and institute a blanket prohibition on autonomous trucks, regardless of their safety records.

There remains a great deal of public skepticism about automated vehicles. My organization, Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, exists to foster fact-based conversations that acknowledge the deep uncertainty new technologies can bring — and the benefits in safety and mobility these technologies promise.

As Californians consider how best to approach autonomous trucking, they should recognize another risk — the risk of maintaining a status quote that kills the equivalent of more than one packed airliner full of passengers every week.

A Senior and Formerly Unhoused Mechanic Tries Out Autonomous Driving

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving

By all accounts, Clayton, a Phoenix man in his 70s, is flourishing. He resides in a close-knit, affordable housing community called Acacia Heights that hosts game nights and potlucks once a month to bring its residents closer together. He serves as a volunteer on the board of nonprofit Circle the City that provides life-saving healthcare to unhoused individuals.

“I feel grateful for every day I’m allowed to wake up,” Clayton says.

It’s hard to imagine that not too long ago, Clayton was also unhoused and a client of Circle the City. Circle the City empowered him to find his home at Acacia Heights through another nonprofit, Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), which provides assistance to Phoenix seniors and people with disabilities and access to affordable housing.

“The residents here are really good at looking after each other,” Clayton says, adding that he loves the community’s amenities like a common room, computer lab, and easy access to downtown Phoenix. “It’s a really, really good feeling to me.”

In contrast to when he was unhoused, Clayton now has many community connections, and volunteering is especially meaningful to him.

“It’s my way of giving back,” Clayton explains.

Clayton, who once worked as an auto mechanic (who once put a totally torn-apart engine back together in two hours and 10 minutes!) believes in a lifelong commitment to trying new things. He put that into action recently when he caught a Waymo One ride to Circle the City in an autonomously driven vehicle.

“People said, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Don’t tell me I can’t. That’s not in my book.’”

Tami Bohannon, CEO of Foundation for Senior Living, which manages Acacia Heights, says FSL is partnering with Waymo to explore how the technology could help residents like Clayton, many of whom do not drive.

“The partnership with Waymo allows FSL participants to stay connected to the larger community,” Tami emphasizes.

Waymo’s autonomous driving technology is designed to be conscientious, constantly vigilant, follow road rules, and make safe driving decisions. Not only could the technology offer seniors who can no longer drive an on-demand safe transportation option, it also could help seniors with limited mobility get the final miles from their homes to public transportation stations by providing one possible solution to the “last mile problem.” Waymo has worked with Phoenix’s public transit system on piloting models for how the technology could close transit gaps.

Tami says the population that FSL serves is expanding, and so will the need for assistance and tools that help people live independently.

“We have a silver tsunami coming. By 2030, there will be 42 million seniors, people over the age of 65 in the United States,” Tami explains. “I do know 90% of seniors tell us they want to live independently.”

Over the last 30 years, FSL has developed 25 affordable apartment communities for seniors and people with disabilities in Phoenix, including Acacia Heights.

Tami says she believes that technology like Waymo’s could be an extension of the services FSL provides already.

“When I think of Waymo’s partnership with FSL, it is actually an extension of our caregiving resources,” Tami says. “If a senior has the ability to use an app, call a Waymo, and take a ride to go to the doctor, an exercise class, or to visit a friend or family member… it’s kind of a new way to look at caregiving.”

Tami says the partnership reflects FSL’s solutions-focused, innovative values.

“Whether that solution is an autonomous car that picks up one of our participants or residents, or we would love to explore robotics and be able to have some form of robotics help us with our caregiving duties, whether it’s in someone’s home or in one of our centers, we’re all about embracing innovation and looking at the world differently.”

Tami says she realized some people might be afraid of autonomous driving technology like Waymo’s, but that life is much richer when people don’t let fear stand in the way of new ways of doing things.

“Think about how your life would be different if you had this kind of technology, this innovative technology available to you,” Tami urges, adding that Clayton is a great example of someone trying new things. “We can’t let fear drive us, but we can let an autonomous car drive us.”

Ohio Autonomous Vehicle Project Deploys Vans, Trucks on Rural Roads

By Stephen Goin, Fox News

In the race to implement autonomous vehicles, Ohio’s rural roadways have become the latest testing ground.

In March, the state’s smart mobility initiative, DriveOhio, deployed autonomous vehicles on active roadways in southeastern Ohio for the first time. The Rural Automated Driving Systems (ADS) project specifically focuses on how automated vehicles operate in rural areas as they navigate curving, and hilly terrain.

DriveOhio Executive Director Preeti Choudary told Fox Business the state’s automated vehicle testing is designed to help Ohio understand how to improve vehicle safety and efficiency in rural communities.

“A lot of the testing to date has been in urban communities, we want to make sure that technology is being tested on rural roadways, so we can experience the challenges and come up with solutions,” Choudhary said. “This critical work will provide valuable information to help advance the safe integration of automated vehicle technologies in Ohio and across the nation.”

A 2022 study from the Bureau of Transportation statistics finds that rural areas are disproportionately affected by traffic fatalities. While only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, 43% of all roadway fatalities occur on rural roads.

Choudhary said DriveOhio hopes to change those outcomes through the automated vehicle deployments underway.

The state is testing passenger vans equipped with AutonomouStuff technology − two Ford transit vans and a Chrysler Pacifica − on the divided highways and rural two-lane roads. This phase of the project focuses on the state’s 32 Appalachian counties as the most comprehensive testing effort yet to be conducted on rural roads in the United States. When the automated driving system is engaged, the technology will control steering, acceleration, and braking.

However, throughout the testing period, Choduhary said there will always be a driver behind the wheel.

“Many vehicles on the road today already have some degree of automated driving system technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, or emergency braking. Those systems are meant to enhance safety, but they certainly don’t replace the human driver,” Choudary said.

A second deployment of vehicles will include two 53-foot semi-trucks connected by technology that automates a process called “platooning,” allowing the trucks to travel closely together at highway speeds.

When the trucks are connected, the lead vehicle controls the speed, and the following vehicle will have precisely matched braking and acceleration to respond to the lead vehicle’s movement. The trucks used in the project are also equipped with radar to detect other vehicles; technology that allows the trucks to monitor and react to the environment in real time. These vehicles will also have drivers behind the wheel at all times.

Ohio’s Lt. Governor John Husted, who heads InnovateOhio, told FoxBusiness the state’s automated vehicle testing builds on already implemented innovations.

“Lane technology, braking technology, all of those are forms of automotive driving systems already out there. We will just gradually continue to evolve that and improve that,” Husted said. “If you can implement a technology that people trust, overtime you can create highway safety which is the goal, these technologies will help make human beings more efficient.”

According to DriveOhio, the state will conduct the automated truck for an entire year before a private company, Ease Logistics, implements the technology in day-to-day operations. At the end of the testing period, Ohio will share the data collected from its project with federal transportation officials.

“Data is a huge piece of this project, we’ll be collecting a tremendous amount of data to try and link how these vehicles perform with what they’re seeing on the road. Ohio University will be involved in packaging that up, and we’ll report it to the federal motor carrier association, and they’ll disseminate that widely throughout the industry,” Choudhary said.

Forward Air, Kodiak Partner on Autonomous Route

By Connor D. Wolf, Transport Topics

Forward Air Corp. has partnered with self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics to run one of their busiest freight lanes near continuously with an autonomous truck, the company announced March 16.

Kodiak is hauling freight nonstop, as part of the partnership, six days a week between Dallas and Atlanta. The purpose of their agreement is to not only transport real freight but also for both companies to gain insights for the future development of autonomous technologies.

“They’ve been a really great partner to work with,” Kodiak CEO Don Burnette said. “Obviously, they do a lot of expedited freight and so this type of highly efficient, highly resilient, continuous operation is really valuable to a company like Forward. And so, it really was a no-brainer that this is the type of company that Kodiak would love to work with. And so far, it’s been a very successful relationship.”

Burnette noted that autonomous technology can increase asset utilization above the standard truck driving hours since it can run all day. The partnership will help put that to the test by running the truck all but one day a week along a lane that stretches about 800 miles. A safety driver team is overseeing the autonomous system in order to maintain the schedule while abiding by hours-of-service regulations.

“To serve our customers, we always need to be on the forefront of exploring emerging technologies,” Forward CEO Tom Schmitt said. “Kodiak has earned an outstanding reputation in safe autonomous trucking, and this collaboration allows us to explore potential benefits to our business. While we don’t see autonomous trucks replacing independent contractor capacity, this could potentially be a scalable solution for certain lanes in our network.”

Kodiak has already launched partnerships with several other carriers to haul real freight. But the new partnership, focused on expedited freight along a difficult corridor, provides new opportunities to improve efficiency and reliability. The company also sees it as an opening to illustrate how autonomous trucking can be an efficient way to supplement human-driven fleets.

“Not all carriers, not all private fleets, are the same,” Burnette said. “They don’t operate in the same way. They don’t have the same schedules, they don’t use the same transportation management systems. And so, we want to make sure that we’re working with companies like Forward early on in our development cycle so we can customize and tailor the solution to their needs and understand what challenges they’re facing.”

Burnette added the partnership will help both companies dive deep into these technologies and operations to better explore their capabilities and limitations. He noted that will help them to optimize business operations for an autonomous world.

“That’s not always obvious on the outset,” Burnette said. “You need to really get into the nitty-gritty details. And that’s why having this 24-6 continuous operation contract is so important, because it gives us a realistic, real-life view into the needs and demands of Forward. A lot of AV companies have been doing one-off pilots or short-term programs or a once-a-week operation, and it just doesn’t really give you enough insight into the true inner workings of a company like Forward and moving expedited freight.”

Kodiak and Forward decided on the route after a lane analysis covering the United States. That analysis looked at factors such as what lanes currently are being run round trip, the volume of freight being hauled and hours of service.

“We wanted to demonstrate the resiliency and the reliability of our system running across a challenging multi-hour-of-service freight corridor,” Burnette said. “And it just so happened that Dallas to Atlanta is one of the busiest corridors in the United States from a freight capacity perspective, and it was one that Forward runs regularly with freight in both directions.”

Kodiak began hauling freight on the lane in August. The first step after selecting the lane was to work out the kinks so those operations were being done responsibly and safely. Kodiak hauled more than a hundred loads on the lane during that process.

“That’s over a hundred thousand miles since we began working with them,” Burnette said. “We started talking to them before that. The relationship was building earlier in 2022 and then we went through the exercises to determine what route, how often, what was the frequency, what were all the details and we started moving freight in August.

“So, there was a bit of work that went into the relationship ahead of time, but so far, it’s been a fantastic experience working with them over the last six months.”