Monday, June 24, 2024

Einride secures $500M in financing for autonomous trucking

Self-driving truck developer Einride completed another funding round and secured a large asset-backed debt facility as it works to develop an autonomous and electric freight mobility ecosystem.

The deals will provide Einride with up to $500 million in capital, the Stockholm, Sweden, company said Wednesday.

In October, Einride completed a test of its autonomous pod truck on open roads, traveling between a GE Appliances manufacturing facility and warehouse in Selmer, Tenn. The test followed approval in June by U.S. regulators for Einride to operate the vehicle on public roads.

Einride’s self-driving truck has no cab or seating area for a human driver. It looks like a high-tech shipping container on wheels. The truck is controlled remotely by a human operator using a joystick and other controls while sitting at a desk behind large screens that provide a view of where the truck is headed.

The company’s approach is different from others developing autonomous trucks. Waymo, Aurora and others have equipped conventional Class 8 diesel trucks from manufacturers such as Freightliner and Peterbilt with self-driving technology for testing — mostly on open roads in the Southwest — with safety drivers in the cab monitoring the vehicle’s operation.

“We’ve created the Einride ecosystem to provide the most resilient and future-proof approach to electrifying freight today,” Robert Falck, Einride’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “With the support from our investors and shared belief in this mission, we’ll continue to drive disruptive change to global freight at scale,”

Although Einride has built its initial pod truck prototypes, it will eventually contract its manufacturing to others, Falck told Automotive News.

It also is helping companies transition to non-autonomous electric trucking.

Earlier this year, Einride ordered 200 BYD Class 8 battery-electric day cab trucks for U.S customers. BYD, which is building the trucks in Lancaster, Calif., said the order was the largest of its kind outside Asia. They will be used for local operations because the trucks have a 200-mile range between charges.

Einride has developed its Saga digital platform that helps customers figure out the most efficient use of electric trucks to maximize their deployment and reduce carbon emissions. Einride will fold other services, such as figuring out the best use of autonomous electric trucks, into the platform.

“When a client says they want to go electric, they want to do it in a cost-competitive way and we then design and develop a transport system for them to be competitive in their pricing and also to be sustainable,” Falck said. “I want to create a new type of transport system that is fundamentally different from what we see today.”

In addition to GE Appliances, customers for the Saga platform include food and drink companies Beyond Meat, Oatley and AB InBev.

Einride said its Series C funding round raised $200 million from new and previous investors, including Swedish pension fund AMF, EQT Ventures, Northzone, Polar Structure, Norrsken VC and Temasek.

It also worked with Barclays Europe to secure $300 million in debt financing, which includes an initial facility rollout of $150 million starting in January.

Einride’s funding comes at a time when other self-driving companies have folded or are struggling. Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen shut down their Argo AI joint venture this fall. Other autonomous-vehicle companies, such as Nuro and Motional, are laying off employees.

Even the well-capitalized Apple has scaled back its self-driving prototype electric vehicle, delaying the car’s target launch date by about a year to 2026, according to Bloomberg.

Einride’s financing “is a standout in mobility broadly, but we have seen some activity in the EV freight space with the Tesla Semi PepsiCo deliveries and Kodiak Robotics winning a U.S. military contract for autonomous vehicles,” said Jonathan Geurkink, the emerging tech analyst at Pitchbook.

Geurkink said “Einride has all the pieces” and its strategy dovetails with current thinking on combining autonomous tech with remote operation to keep “humans in the loop for the various edge cases.”Chris Urmson, one of the founding members of Google’s self-driving car project more than a decade ago and now CEO of Aurora Innovation, sees the self- driving industry undergoing a shakeout not unlike what happened during the initial years of the auto industry.

“I’ve been saying for six to seven years that we’re going to see consolidation,” he said during the Automotive News Congress Dec. 5 in Detroit. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not an interesting space. It just means some people had the combination of capabilities, capital and technology, then made the partnerships to go and succeed.”

Aurora once looked at robotaxis as the primary avenue to self-driving commercialization but has shifted to trucking.

Many in the industry see trucking, which primarily relies on highway driving, as the first widespread use of autonomous vehicles. Waymo also is pursuing autonomous trucking with its ongoing tests in Texas.



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