Will driverless trucks pass these guys by?

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

It looks like “an aerodynamic white box” on wheels, according to Fast Company. That’s a fair description. But it’s really a new type of vehicle being tested by Swedish start-up Einride and it could soon disrupt the transportation industry.

It’s called the “T-Pod”. It has no seats, no windows…and no driver. It is self-driving. It can also be controlled remotely, runs entirely on electricity and can go as far as 124 miles while hauling up to 20 tons of freight before needing another charge. Oh, and it’s quiet and pollution-free.

But only 124 miles before a charge is needed? Won’t that create a lot of down time? Not at all, according to company officials. “If you have to stand still maybe one-third of the time to actually charge, that makes the business case for having a truck driver in a battery-powered truck not that good,” says Robert Falck, chief executive of Einride in the Fast Company article. “But if you remove them and create a system where the truck driver drives it remotely and controls a fleet, you overcome that problem.”

The environmental benefits of an all-electric vehicle are also obvious. According to the Fast Company report, heavy duty trucks make up about seven percent of road traffic yet consume 25 percent of the fuel we use. They also emit half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.

But the T-Pod offers a few huge benefits to businesses both big and small. No drivers means no overtime, no health insurance, no out-of-pocket expenses for meals and no mandated sleepy-sleep time. Cut these expenses and you can easily see why many transportation companies – and the customers they serve – will have a very keen interest in the success of Einride’s prototype.

The company will test its first fleet in 2018 and plans to have a fleet of 200 “pods” by 2020.

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