European road transport companies, like their counterparts in North America, are under enormous pressure: loads are increasing steadily, but the number of truck drivers is shrinking
rapidly (for more see below ***). This widening gap could be alleviated by the introduction of electrically powered and autonomously driving vehicles. In Dubai, an interesting project was
launched last Tuesday (13DEC22). Since that day, a driverless truck is navigating through Dubai South’s Logistics District in a trial lasting until FEB23.
When presenting the plans, CEO Andrey Bolshakov of manufacturer Evocargo outlined the key objective of the tests: it is about gaining experience with the vehicle in everyday use, which will then be incorporated into a revised model. During the trial period, a remote operator will be stationed on-site in the Control Centre to check all movements of the truck. The center, located in Dubai South’s Logistics District, includes a software suite to monitor the operation, check the serviceability of the sensors, and identify any errors, according to Dubai Media Office press release.
Improving transports, reducing CO2 emissions
Dubai South was chosen for this project, because it is the emirate’s largest single-urban development area focusing on aviation, logistics and real estate. The emirate considers itself as being a global logistics hub offering shippers, forwarders, and airlines the throughput and handling of unrivalled freight capacity as well as air, ocean, and road connectivity. Carrying electric and driverless truck technology forward, will help the entire Middle East and North African region (MENA) to further reduce its carbon footprint, argue the supporters of the trial.
At the presentation, Mohsen Ahmad, CEO of the Logistics District — Dubai South pointed out that the city’s Self-Driving Transport Strategy is multimodal and encompasses targeting all seven modes of the public transport fleet, including subway, tram, bus, taxi, ocean and air transport, cable cars and shuttle services. When fully implemented, the strategy will help raising the efficiency of the transport sector by 20% and lead to savings of Dh1.5 billion (383 million euros) by reducing environmental pollution.
The driverless Evocargo can transport up to 2 tons or six Euro pallets. Moving at a velocity of 25km/h. When full charged and loaded with goods it can cover up to 200km before being recharged. The security system of the vehicle has four tiers: the computer vision of the space around it, an automatic diagnostic system, a remote-stop system, and a standby pneumatic braking system. It will be managed and navigated by a remote controller.
CEO Bolshakov, a Russian national, points out that Evocargo is registered in Dubai but its research and development center is located in Moscow. Also, one of the main financial supporters is Kremlin-owned energy giant Gazprom.
Einride follows suit with an interesting project in the U.S.
However, his company is not the only one making its mark in the field of automated and electric driving of commercial vehicles. With Einride, there is a Swedish competitor who has been given a permit to run a pilot program to operate driverless electric trucks on public roads in western Tennessee. It was the first time such a vehicle has been granted permission to do so in the U.S. The autonomous electric transport vehicle, which is called a Pod, is monitored remotely by a trained specialist who can take control if needed.
According to Forbes, Einride’s Tennessee Pod trials are being run together with GE Appliances. They will operate on public roads in mixed traffic in and near Memphis performing a number of tasks including movement of goods and coordinating with teams at various warehouses for loading and unloading.
“Logistics creates cities, creates hubs, creates our history,” stated Einride founder and CEO Robert Falck on the occasion of the pilot. “If you look at cost competitiveness, the cheapest way to transport in the next 50 years, it will be autonomous and electric transport vehicles. What we have here is literally technology that will re-write the map and re-write how we see history and how we see transport,” the entrepreneur projects. “The revolution is happening.”
Dachser and Mercedes signs major contract
Over in Germany, logistics service provider Dachser and Mercedes-Benz Trucks have signed a letter of intent on 15DEC22, for 50 electric long-haul Mercedes trucks offering a range of up to 500 km each. Dachser intends to use the eActros LongHaul truck configured as a 6x2 swap body vehicle with a storage height of 1,120 mm. This way, the logistics company is significantly expanding its electric vehicle fleet and improves its environmental footprint. The eActros truck, is expected to be ready for series production by 2024.
Unlike the two examples above, however, the eActros do not operate autonomously. Without a driver, they wouldn’t move a meter or yard
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