Video Shows First Level 4 Autonomous Truck Getting Commercial Approval
It's a big milestone.
The Tesla Semi has some serious Scandinavian competition, thanks to a collaboration between the Swedish autonomous driving startup Einride and the German logistics giant DB Schenker, who together plan to bring the first commercial, fully electric, fully autonomous freight truck to the roads within the next several weeks.
Known as the T-Pod, the truck has been driving autonomously through a pilot program since early last month, and the two companies now tell the Financial Times that within weeks, it expects to finalize the permits it needs to begin commercial operations on public roads. Per FT, it will be the first battery operated commercial truck to run without a driver.
As far as the levels of automotive autonomy go, the T-Pod will run at level four, meaning that it can run without any driver physically in the cab. Instead, operators will monitor up to 10 trucks remotely from a command center, and then occasionally take over driving whenever necessary.
The T-Pod’s aspirations are modest to start. As for its pilot program, the Pod has been shuttling between two DB Schenker warehouses. If it gets approval (a process which could also take some time), then it would only be cleared to travel a distance of around six miles, and of those six miles, only 100 meters or so of the journey would put them at risk of encountering an actual human driver. Still, as the company’s pointed out to FT, the first Wright brothers glider only flew a few hundred meters at first. You gotta start somewhere.
Unlike the Tesla Semi, the T-Pod has no room for a passenger or driver at all, a decision the company says helps reduce the cost and makes it easier to keep the truck 100 percent battery powered. Instead it uses a mix of cameras, radars, and lidars to give it a full 360 degree view of its surroundings. It has a range of 200 kilometers, which is about 124 miles, and is powered by a 200kWh battery.
For comparison, that’s a much, much smaller range than what’s been projected for the yet-to-be-released Tesla Semi. Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the big rig is supposed to be able to travel up to 500 miles on a single charge, if you spring for the more expensive variant, starting at $180,000. The cheaper variant will still be able to travel 300 miles.
Since its unveiling in November 2017, a number sightings of a Tesla Semi prototype have been reported, usually on the corporate campus of companies that have already made pre-orders. Shipments are supposed to start next year, though customers have reported expected shipment dates going into 2020.