Source: Einride Youtube Video
Electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and logging-industry vehicles; as we look to the future, these are the segments most likely to see massive disruption and incredible levels of investment from major companies.
Well, definitely the first two categories. Logging-industry vehicles haven't exactly seen the level of investment that the electric or autonomous car markets have. But that changes now, as Swedish start-up Einride has debuted an electric, autonomous logging truck.
They call it the T-log, which sounds like a terrible nickname you'd give to a kid named Tommy who can't get to the bathroom in time, and it's entirely driverless. So driverless, in fact, that they didn't bother with a cab. It's just a chassis, some aerodynamic shielding and a buttload of logs.
Logging trucks are expected to operate off of paved roads, which the Swedish company says the Nvidia-sourced level 4 self-driving system can handle. Should it encounter a vexing situation that it can't handle, the T-log can be remotely piloted from back at base using Phantom Auto teleoperation similar to what our own Jason Torchinsky proposed.
Einride CEO Robert Falck says ditching the cab altogether makes it much easier to produce T-logs at a low cost — though price hasn't been specified — and helps cut operational expenses:
"The driver's cab is what makes trucks expensive to produce, and having a driver in the cabin is what makes them expensive to operate. Remove the cabin and replace the driver with an operator who can monitor and remote-control several vehicles at once and costs can be reduced significantly. In addition, operating a vehicle from a distance allows for a much better working environment, as has already been demonstrated in industries like mining."
It's hard to tell based on the video and photos where the cameras and sensors that enable autonomy are hiding. Some could be hidden in the front cover of the car, but you'd probably expect to have visible cameras and LIDAR for this to work.
What we do know, however, is that the body is covering 300 kWh's worth of batteries, enabling a 193km range. The company hasn't released information on whether you can fast-charge the vehicle or how long conventional charging takes. Finally, there's no word on who would supply the batteries or where the truck will be built.
As you can see, there's still a lot to figure out about this truck. Einride wants to have it on the road by 2020, having "already registered interest from several major global companies." That's ambitious, as even most major car companies aren't expecting to have level 4 autonomy on the road by then.