The 400,000 distribution centers in the United States are important hubs for the supply chain. Now a startup wants to make the yard truck – the heart of the distribution center – more efficient, safer and cleaner with an autonomous system.
Outrider, a startup from Golden, Colorado, formerly known as Azevtec, announced on Wednesday that it had raised $ 53 million in start-up capital and Series A funding rounds, led by NEA and 8VC. Outrider is also supported by Koch Disruptive Technologies. Fraser McCombs Capital, storage giant Prologis, Schematic Ventures, Loup Ventures and Goose Society of Texas.
Andrew Smith, CEO of Outrider, said that distribution yards are ideal environments for the use of autonomous technologies because they are well-defined areas that are also complex, often chaotic and involve many manual tasks.
"For this reason, a system approach is required to automate every important task in the yard," said Smith.
Outrider has developed a system that includes an electric truck that is equipped with a self-driving full-stack system with overlapping sensor technologies such as radar, lidar and cameras. The system automates the manual aspect of yard operations, including moving trailers around the yard and to and from loading docks. The system can also connect and disconnect trailers, connect and disconnect trailer brake lines and monitor the position of the trailers.
The company has two pilot programs with Georgia-Pacific and four Fortune 200 companies in certain sections of their distribution centers. Over time, according to Smith, Outrider will move from working in certain areas of these yards to taking over the entire yards for these corporate customers.
"Because we get people out of these yard environments that have 80,000 pound vehicles, we deliver greater efficiency," Smith said in a recent interview with TechCrunch. This efficiency is not just moving trailers around the yard, Smith added. It also helps to get the class 8 semi-trailers, which are used to transport cargo across the system, back on the road quickly.
"We can actually reduce the amount of time people sit in a yard on the street trying to pick up or drop off," said Smith.
Smith sees a great opportunity to demonstrate the responsible use of autonomy and to clean up shipyards filled with diesel-powered yard trucks.
"If there was ever a location for short-term automation and electrification of the supply chain, it's here," he said. "Our customers and suppliers know that these autonomous systems have a great opportunity to accelerate the deployment of more than 50,000 electric vehicles in the market because they represent a superior platform for automation."