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February 19, 2020 10:15 AM, EST

Outrider Gets $53 Million to Automate Truck Yards

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Technology company Outrider closed out an early stage of financing with $53 million to automate truck yards, the company announced Feb. 19.

The Golden, Colo.-based company also announced the initial pilot deployment of its autonomous system.

Outrider CEO Andrew Smith explained the decision to focus on distribution yards stems from how important yet inefficient they are. He also sees them as potentially unsafe environments for the people that work in them.

“The issue is the majority of these yard operations are almost entirely manual and highly inefficient,” Smith told Transport Topics. “This means there is congestion when over-the-road trucks are coming to drop off trailers or containers into a yard. There are misplaced trailers that can cause all sorts of issues within the supply chain. Equipment gets damaged.”

Outrider was able to get the high level of funding through Series A financing. This is an initial round of investments private startup businesses could get after they have shown progress and demonstrated potential growth and revenue.

“The important thing to understand about our system is that we don’t just automate the truck,” Smith said. “We automate the entire yard. What this means is, we think about what are those components that come together that allow one person to dramatically increase the safety and productivity of the yard as opposed to having lots of people running around doing those things.”

Outrider truck yard

Outrider is exclusively focused on automating all aspects of yard operations. (Outrider)

The Outrider system is designed to automate all major aspects of yard operations with the goal of making them more efficient, safer and sustainable. That includes moving trailers around the yard, hitching trailers, connecting trailer brake lines and monitoring trailer locations.

Outrider is testing its system with five pilot customers including pulp and paper company Georgia-Pacific. The system has been implemented in sections of their distribution yards with the goal of scaling up the operations over time.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to transform our company and the way we get work done, especially making work safer and more efficient and productive,” Annant Patel, vice president of automation transformation at Georgia-Pacific, said in a statement. “Yard operations has been one of our opportunities, and Outrider has been a great partner to help us automate our pilot site.”

In part two of a two-part exploration of autonomous technology today, our latest RoadSigns podcast revisits conversations with Chuck Price of TuSimple and Ognen Stojanovski of Pronto.ai. Hear them discuss a palatable Level 2 version of trucking autonomy. Listen to a snippet above, and to hear the full episode, go to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

Smith notes the system has three main integrated components. The first piece is a web-based interface that allows individuals to operate entire yards. The second piece of the system is site infrastructure that allows them to operate the fully autonomous trucks. The third piece is transforming existing yard platforms.

“We are operating in specific areas of the yard of our pilot customers,” Smith said. “In each case, the objective is to expand across entire yards and entire networks with this system. The system is modular and scalable.”

About 10 billion tons of freight are moved by truck annually, with the majority of that passing through distribution yards. These yards are the transition points between public roads and the warehouses, factories and rail yards where materials pass through.

“The driving force behind this system is really three pillars,” Smith said. “Those three pieces — safety, efficiency and sustainability — are what is driving some of the largest logistics-dependent companies in the world to be eager about this technology.”

The various forms of autonomous technologies have been a prominent part of the national conversation in recent years. These technologies promise great economic benefit but raise concern over displaced workers. Smith says that the way his system is deployed instead frees up workers to do more important and safer tasks.

“We as a company are focused on thinking about what is the responsible deployment of autonomous technology,” Smith said. “For all of the cases we are working on with our customers, there is little to no direct job loss for the deployment of these systems. Yard truck driving is a repetitive and hazardous task where you see high levels of turnover.”

New Enterprise Associates and 8VC led the financing round. Polsinelli LLP represented the company during it. Outrider also is backed by investors including Koch Disruptive Technologies, Fraser McCombs Capital, Prologis, Schematic Ventures, Loup Ventures and Goose Society of Texas.

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