T-pod needs no driver

New elec­tric ro­bot de­liv­ery truck from Swe­den her­alds a new era in trans­port

The Witness - Wheels - - TRANSPORT - ALWYN VILJOEN • alwyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

MEET the T-pod, ev­ery truck driver’s night­mare.

The T-pod is an elec­tric, self­driv­ing small truck that is part of a new trans­porta­tion sys­tem com­pris­ing charg­ing sta­tions and re­mote con­trol of a small fleet of trucks by one driver.

Swedish com­pany Ein­ride un­veiled the full-scale pro­to­type of the T-pod in Visby, on the is­land of Got­land, dur­ing the “Almedalsveckan”, Swe­den’s most im­por­tant fo­rum in pol­i­tics/trans­porta­tion on July 4.

Ein­ride was listed along with Pelo­ton, Em­bark, Keep­Truckin, and OnTruck as one of the top five com­pa­nies that are dis­rupt­ing the road freight in­dus­try.

Ein­ride’s CEO Robert Falck pre­sented the T-pod, say­ing it marks a global tran­si­tion from heavy, noisy trucks with mon­strous emis­sions and bad work­ing con­di­tions to emis­sion-free, noise re­duced trucks that al­low work­ers to op­er­ate on a stan­dard sched­ule closer to home.

Each T-Pod should mea­sure about seven me­tres in length and can load 15 stan­dard pal­lets for a max­i­mum pay­load of 18 000 kg. Its 200 kWh bat­tery pack has a claimed range of 200 km on one charge.

Falck said the ques­tion he re­ceived many times dur­ing the launch was, “How does the driver fit in there?”

“Once we ex­plained the self­driv­ing and re­mote driv­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties they were very ea­ger to learn more,” Falck said.

Like the fleet of gi­ant Ko­matsu dump trucks that op­er­ate on Rio Tinto’s mines in Aus­tralia and Chile, sev­eral T-pods can be con­trolled by a re­mote op­er­a­tor sit­ting thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away, us­ing the on-board cam­eras and a teleme­try sys­tem.

For now, the mar­ket is not quite ready for a fleet of driver­less trucks run­ning around cities un­der con­trol of a far-away op­er­a­tor, so these new types of trucks will in­stead drive them­selves, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by Ein­ride.

Ein­ride plans to road test the T-pod later this year to de­liver goods be­tween the Swedish cities of Gothen­burg and Hels­ing­borg. This test road is about 219 km long and in­cludes city and ru­ral driv­ing. Ein­ride then hopes sell 200 T-pods to trans­port goods in Swe­den by 2020.

This sounds like a very am­bi­tious goal, but is in line with the pre­dic­tions that cheap ride shar­ing — be it on scoot­ers, in cars or for loads in trucks — will be the new nor­mal by 2030, as re­ported in a May re­port by Re­thinkX ti­tled “Re­think­ing Trans­porta­tion 2020-2030”.

The re­port warns that lo­cal as­sem­bly of elec­tric ve­hi­cles will dis­rupt trans­porta­tion sys­tems around the world, and lead to the rapid col­lapse of sales of the in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion en­gine and fos­sil oil in­dus­tries.


The T-pod is an elec­tric truck that needs no driver. In­stead it can steer it­self, or sev­eral of them can be con­trolled re­motely by one op­er­a­tor, as Ko­matsu has done since 2011 with its ro­botic trucks on mines in Aus­tralia and Chile.

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