2022 ALL STAR | AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
Outrider founder and CEO Andrew Smith doesn’t build autonomous vehicles; he makes them happen.
His Golden, Colo., company doesn’t attempt to design and build an autonomous truck from scratch. Instead, it picks from an array of suppliers and combines their components and equipment into an autonomous yard vehicle that moves trailers and containers on its own.
“We’re getting glimpses of what autonomous trucking will look like on public roads, but that is still years ahead,” said Smith, 46. “Right now, Outrider’s autonomous trucks are hard at work in distribution yards — critical links in the supply chain where freight moves between the warehouse and over-the-road trucking.”
In its latest iteration, the Outrider yard truck uses Nvidia’s Drive autonomous vehicle platform for perception system processing, Ouster’s high-resolution lidar sensors for perception and Yaskawa’s industrial robotic arm for connecting and disconnecting trailer lines. Outrider adds its software and other technology, which can be layered onto any electric yard truck platform to create an autonomous, zero-emission vehicle for distribution yards and logistics hubs.
While the trucks autonomously move containers and trailers around distribution yards, they don’t travel on public roads. They can robotically hitch and unhitch trailers and connect and disconnect their brake lines. They also have autonomous trailer-backing capabilities.
With restricted access and almost no random traffic, distribution yards are an easier environment for autonomous vehicles to navigate. They don’t have to process human drivers or others who don’t always precisely follow the rules of the road.
“These distribution yards are located on private, well-defined property and operate at lower speeds, making them ideal places to deploy autonomy today,” Smith said.
Such environments, along with quarries and mines, are among the first commercial settings for autonomous vehicles.
Outrider has 24 vehicles in use for customers and test operations. It says it has secured long-term agreements with its customers for hundreds of autonomous vehicles in preparation for scaling in 2023 and beyond.
Smith doesn’t plan to stop at yard trucks.
“Down the road, Outrider will apply our in-depth understanding of autonomy — capabilities, operations and limitations — to new frontiers across the supply chain,” he said.