Swedish autonomous-truck startup Einride has received regulatory approval to operate its trucks on public U.S. roadways and will begin doing so this year, the company said Thursday.
Einride will launch a pilot program in Tennessee with GE Appliances in the third quarter. The project will help the self-driving truck company showcase the ability of its Pod truck, which is built without a traditional front cab. The company said it received the go-ahead to drive on public roadways from NHTSA.
Einride CEO Robert Falck said gaining NHTSA approval is a significant moment for the company as it looks to expand its presence in the U.S. Einride opened its U.S. headquarters in New York in October and began setting up regional operations in California and Austin, Texas.
"For us, it's all about scaling from here on out," Falck told Automotive News.
Because of the Einride Pod's cab-less design, no driver or safety operator will be on board the truck as it drives. Instead, the autonomous trucks will be monitored by a "remote pod operator."
Einride has been testing on public roadways in Europe since 2019. In the U.S., it had been relegated to private-road testing because current laws and regulations only allow traditional vehicle manufacturers to test vehicles that don't conform to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards on public roads.
Utilizing provisions within "Part 591" of the federal government's regulations, Einride can import vehicles that may be tested on public roads. Now that it has that regulatory approval, Falck said there's potential for the company to grow faster in the U.S.
"The U.S. is the most competitive marketplace in the world, and transport is the backbone of that economy," he said. "The U.S. will be the first to have a built-out system of autonomous, electric transport solutions, and it's due to the fact that every dollar counts in the U.S., and people are not afraid to try new technologies."
The pilot will "complement other existing operations" for GE Appliances, and Einride will coordinate with "teams at various warehouses for loading and unloading," the company said.
In addition to GE Appliances, Falck said Einride has enjoyed "great engagement" with other customers in the U.S. In November, the company said it had signed U.S. customers including Bridgestone. Einride also said it was in the "planning phase" with food company Oatly.
In Europe, customers include Coca-Cola, German retailer Lidl and Swedish manufacturer SKF. The company claims to operate the continent's biggest electric truck fleet.
Falck said Einride expects to accommodate a similar mix of industries in the U.S. over time. He said the company plans to focus on short-haul trucking for now, though he noted that "any application that is less than 500 miles is really in play" for Einride.