Einride, a Swedish company operating the largest fleet of electric trucks in Europe, has started testing autonomous (electric) trucks in the US. Trucks are supervised by a truck driver sitting in an office in front of a large screen (watch the clip) that makes him feel like he is actually sitting in the truck cab. Obviously, having a remote trucker is good for the trucker but won’t decrease cost. Actually, Einride aims at having one “trucker” taking care of 10 trucks un parallel, and this clearly will reduce cost!
The trick is done by having the trucker stepping in only when there is a situation where a human intervention/supervision is required, The truck is autonomous and can, autonomously, evaluate if a situation may require the “presence” of a trucker. In this case it stops and waits for instruction. The virtual trucker is informed and takes over from remote. He has the possibility to look around the truck, in the same way he would if he were at the wheel, including stepping out of the cab and walking around the truck to assess the situation. Using knobs on his station he can operate the truck up to the point where the truck can resume its autonomous operation.
So far Einride is testing their “pod”, a flatbed truck that can transport containers, inside a closed yard. They expect to move to the next phase early next year. Interestingly, Einride is expecting to create some 2,000 virtual trucker jobs in the coming three years.
There are already operators controlling drones from remote (the military are at the forefront in these technologies9 , now we are going to have virtual truckers too. It is a sort of digital transformation of jobs.