T-pod needs no driver
New electric robot delivery truck from Sweden heralds a new era in transport
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.