Einride starts building ‘world’s largest’ autonomous trucking network in Dubai

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Einride has partnered with Jebel Ali Port in Dubai as part of its ambitious plan to build the world’s largest autonomous trucking network.

The Swedish freight mobility startup has signed a deal with DP World, which handles logistics at the port — the world’s 10th busiest. The firm will use hundreds of Einride’s electric trucks to haul containers around the shipyard. 

Starting next year, DP World will start using autonomous trucks alongside those piloted by humans. This is part of the Falcon Rise project, a planned autonomous trucking network that will spread 550 kilometres across the UAE.

“The world will have never seen anything like this before,” Robert Falck, CEO and founder at Einride, told TNW. “There will be hundreds of electric and autonomous trucks transporting goods all over the country, including on public roads.” 

We visited the Einride team earlier this year at their offices in Stockholm and their workshop in Gothenburg. The company, valued at over $1 billion, has a unique business model for an autonomous vehicle (AV) startup. 

An arrow in the quiver

Rather than just building self-driving trucks, the company provides the full mobility menu. This includes electric and autonomous fleets, an intelligent software platform, and charging infrastructure.

Einride buys its electric trucks from third-parties like Volvo and Scania. The startup then fits these haulers with an AI-powered digital operating system. Dubbed Saga, it analyses the best routes and optimises energy consumption.

Einride builds its AVs, however, from scratch. Unlike those of its competitors, these trucks don’t feature a cabin. You couldn’t drive one, even if you wanted to. Instead, human operators can take over the controls remotely, if needed. 

Einride’s electric and charging businesses are laying the bedrock for more AVs, the startup’s founding engineer Tomas Ohlson told TNW in Gothenburg. “That’s why we’re building an end-to-end freight mobility ecosystem,” he said. 

Electrification also has a viable business case right now, whereas autonomous trucking is still in its infancy. Ohlson says that Einride plans to slowly increase the share of autonomous operations as regulation progresses.   

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Einride’s founding engineer Tomas Ohlson at the Vision Shop in Gothenburg. Credit: Siôn Geschwindt/The Next Web

In 2022, Einride became the first company to operate an AV on public roads in the US. The self-driving truck — which looks like it’s smiling — runs errands around GE Appliances’ 750-acre campus in Kentucky in the US.   

“Projects like these are key to building trust,” Henrik Green, who heads up Einride’s autonomous technology arm, told TNW. “We start in private, quiet areas and then slowly move out into more complex traffic situations.” Green was Volvo’s CTO before he joined Einride last year. 

Could Europe learn a thing or two from the Middle East? 

Einride’s plans in the UAE mark a monumental step up from previous pilots. When Falcon Rise was first announced last year, the startup said it would encompass 2,000 electric trucks, 200 AVs, and eight charging stations with more than 500 charging points. 

However, on a call this week, Falck told us he wasn’t willing to specify exact numbers but that there would be “several hundred” electric and autonomous trucks involved. Regardless, it would mark a quantum leap forward for the AV sector, which has largely been confined to small-scale test-runs.

For Falck, Europe can learn something from the UAE’s approach to tech innovation. “They are ambitious and the decision-makers there have a deep understanding of technology,” he said. “I mean, what the country has managed to accomplish from a tech and infrastructure point of view is monumental.”  

The financials surrounding Einride’s partnership with DP World were not disclosed. The roll out of electric trucks will begin imminently, while the AVs will be deployed over time, starting next year. 

Falck said he expects the autonomous trucks will be built partly in Sweden and partly in the UAE to cut down on costs and carbon emissions. All the trucks will be remotely operated by technicians based in the Gulf state. The entire Falcon Rise project is expected to be completed in around five years’ time.

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