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May 17, 2019 9:30 AM, EDT

Unmanned Truck Operates on Public Road in Sweden

Einride Einride’s cabless T-pod cargo vehicle makes its debut run on a short section of public road in southern Sweden. (Einride)

An unmanned, self-driving truck now is hauling cargo on a short stretch of public road in Sweden.

The cabless, battery-electric “T-pod” vehicle, designed by technology startup Einride, began operating on the new route on May 15 as part of a pilot program with transportation firm DB Schenker.

The 23-foot cargo vehicle, which has no driver’s seat, pedals or steering wheel, will navigate traffic as it conducts daily freight runs at very low speeds along a 300-meter course between a warehouse and a truck terminal at DB Schenker’s facility in Jönköping. The route is in an industrial area, but includes a 100-meter section of road that also is used by other vehicles, Einride said.

“Autonomous trucks will become increasingly important for the logistics sector,” DB Schenker CEO Jochen Thewes said in a statement. “Together with Einride, we have now introduced autonomous, fully electric trucks to a continuous flow on a public road — a milestone in the transition to the transport system of tomorrow.”

The Swedish Transport Agency in March approved a permit that allows the T-pod to travel on the public road through the end of 2020.

The permit limits the vehicle’s speed to 5 kilometers per hour, or about 3 mph.

Robert Falck, Einride’s founder and CEO, also hailed the T-pod’s debut on the new route as a landmark moment in his company’s “movement to create a safe, efficient and sustainable transport solution, based on autonomous, electric vehicles.”

The T-pod can carry up to 15 pallets and uses onboard sensors and machine vision to track its surroundings.

Although Einride’s T-pods are unmanned, remote drivers monitor the self-driving vehicles and can take control if necessary.

Einride’s partnership with DB Schenker, formed in April 2018, includes the operation in Jönköping as well as an option for additional pilots internationally.

More than a year ago, Einride showcased its T-pod at the Transportation Research Board’s 2018 annual meeting in Washington.

The Stockholm-based company also has interest in potentially bringing its autonomous transport system to the North American market, Falck told Transport Topics at the time.