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Driverless With a Driver

Lidl, the German-based grocery chain, has had a long partnership with Einride, the Swedish electric truck startup. That partnership is taking a new step forward with a recent announcement of an increased collaboration. [1]  

Sebastian Blanco, of Forbes, quotes Einride CEO Robert Falck as saying that the company is "still planning to commence operations with this partnership in the fall and will be sharing more information on our digital and electric solutions in the coming months." [1] That digital and electric solution is one that goes beyond just driverless electric trucks. Einride has a digital platform called the Freight Mobility Platform (FMP), which it has been working to roll out with Lidl. This platform optimizes logistics routes for electric vehicles in cities, such as Stockholm, where this project will be starting in the fall. It also provides the connection needed for remote management of the driverless vehicle if it encounters problems it cannot resolve on its own. 

This increased collaboration has international ambitions. "The plan is to increase the use of Einride’s EVs in other parts of Sweden, then expand to other parts of Europe and then to the U.S." The timeframe is aggressive as well, with Lidl aiming to have most of its transport be conducted by Einride as early as 2025, just four and a half years away. [1]

 

Personal comments

There are, as many have pointed out, many potential benefits of having autonomous, electrically powered, delivery trucks on our streets. Not only should they be quieter than traditional diesel trucks, but over their lifetime they should significantly reduce emissions. [2] This is a good thing; however questions remain regarding how these driverless trucks will function in the chaotic environment of urban centers.

It should also be pointed out that driverless is not the same thing as fully-autonomous. The stunning design of Einride’s Pod has no place for a driver on board, but a driver is still clearly needed. This can be seen in Einride’s move to hire remote drivers. [3] A remote driver may be able to manage multiple vehicles, but we will have to wait to see how Einride’s AI navigates Stockholm’s streets to see how often the remote driver will need to take over. A driver is still in the loop, even if the vehicle itself is driverless. 

 

Written by Joshua Bronson, RISE.

 

1. 2020-04-22. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sebastianblanco/2020/04/22/einride-ready-to-bring-electric-trucks-to-lidls-swedish-operations-then-the-world/amp/.

2. 2020-04-27. https://www.nyteknik.se/premium/nu-kan-du-sjalv-jamfora-utslappen-din-elbil-ger-upphov-till-6994381. This shows the comparison between electric cars and traditional cars, but electric trucks will certainly emit significantly lower amounts than traditional petrol and diesel-powered trucks.

3. 2020-03-09. https://www.einride.tech/news/einride-will-hire-its-first-remote-autonomous-truck-operator-in-2020.