With supply chain issues impacting countless products and high gas prices, a Colorado startup hopes by removing humans from the equation at distribution centers it will fix a major issue.
"We are running autonomous zero emission yard trucks 20 hours a day seven days a week," said Outrider CEO and Founder Andrew Smith as he looked over a hot parking lot in Adams County. "One of the biggest pain points for our customers is just finding someone to do this work. This isn't just finding someone for an eight hour shift."
The constant beeping of the autonomous trucks can be heard just above the nearby Interstate 76 traffic. Constant testing takes place with the electric powered trucks picking up trailers and moving them around. A driver still sits in the cab at the testing site, but some autonomous units are being used by companies around the country.
"What we're doing is streamlining the critical link between over-the-road transportation and warehouse or production facility operations," Smith said.
He founded the company and pushed for the entire fleet to be all electric to help with environmental impact. Especially because most distribution centers are getting covered in solar panels, the electricity for the trucks is on-site.
"This technology is coming at a critical time when costs are rising and everyone is looking at ways to reduce shipping costs," Smith said.
The technology has had constant hurdles, like needing modifications beyond just driving.
"The key thing about yard automation is that you can't just automate the truck, you have to automate all the tasks in the yard. Every Outrider vehicle has a robotic arm that can see, use machine learning, and connect to the brake lines of a trailer," Smith said.
That's why round-the-week testing is still taking place. The hope is to have the technology fine-tuned in the next few years so the devices can be widely implemented.
"By driving down the cost and enhancing the efficiency of those operations, we bring down the costs of essentially everything that you make, buy, use on a daily basis," Smith said.
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