Einride is Hiring the First ‘Remote Autonomous Truck Operator' in the Industry

Einride is Hiring the First ‘Remote Autonomous Truck Operator' in the Industry

Author: Eric Walz   

While advances in technology and automation are replacing jobs once performed by humans, progress also creates new opportunities, offering people a chance to learn and apply new skills to take on high-tech roles. As autonomous driving technology slowly makes its way into the freight transport, there are some truck drivers who feel threatened that automation or robots will eventually take their jobs away. 

However, autonomous transport startup Einride believes that autonomous driving technology will create entirely new job categories and the company is looking to train and hire people for these new high-tech roles. Einride announced today that the company is hiring the first "remote autonomous truck operator" in the freight mobility space and Einride plans to hire more, including in the U.S.

Einride AB is a Swedish transport company based in Stockholm. The company was founded in 2016. Einride is developing electric and self-driving transport vehicles called "Einride Pods." The pods are fully-electric and designed to be remotely controlled by drivers, they don't even have a cabin for drivers to sit in.

The new jobs will be to remotely monitor one of Einride's Autonomous Electric Transport (AET) pods, just like the humans do right now behind the wheel of self-driving development vehicles. Only Einride's remote operators can be in a comfortable office hundreds of miles away from the AET.

The remote technology is known in the industry as "teleoperations", where the steering, acceleration, braking and other functions of an autonomous vehicle can be controlled over a 5G network, so the remote operator can be wherever 5G connections are available, which will eventually might be anywhere in the world.

Rather than truck driver being replaced by a self-driving computer, Einride has made a conscious decision to hire truck drivers as AET operators, based on their extensive on-road experience. Truck drivers know the ins-and-outs of operating a conventional truck and therefore are excellent candidates for these new types of jobs monitoring Einride's autonomous AETs.

In the first of its kind role, the operator will work closely with Einride's tech team to provide feedback on the development of Einride's remote driver station to help shape the working environment of tomorrow's truckers.

"Today, our autonomous pods are operated by developers – robot engineers trained to drive trucks. A commercially scalable solution must rely on truck drivers, trained to remote-operate robots. The ins-and-outs of that future is what we're investigating now, by involving truck drivers in the process," said Robert Falck, founder, and CEO of Einride.

Remote Teleoperations for Autonomous Vehicles

Enride's remote operator sits in a comfortable driver's seat in front of what resembles a racing video game, with multiple monitors linked in real-time to the AETs onboard cameras and a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal connected to the AET via a 5G network

Einride's new teleoperation system includes high performance video streaming and low latency cellular networks, so the remote operator has a clear view of any AET's surroundings on HD monitors as if they were sitting behind the wheel (if there was one), regardless of where they are in the world. 

Einride's remote driver training will incorporate safety and security instruction, basic driving lessons, and an extensive understanding of the external technology operating system, such as how the AET's sensors work.

In addition to closely monitoring the operation of Einride's self-driving AET, the remote operator will provide valuable feedback to the company's engineering team, so they can refine and improve the AET technology for its eventual commercial launch in the freight industry.

Einride demonstrated its technology by remotely steering an AET in Barcelona from 2500 km away in Sweden, using 5G-connectivity. The demonstration took place during the 2019 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Addressing a Shortage of Human Driver's with Autonomous Trucks

Autonomous trucks might help address a dwindling workforce. The trucking industry is facing a growing shortage of drivers, as the job is tedious and some drivers usually find themselves far away from home, often for weeks at a time. 

According to the American Trucking Association, at the end of 2017, the U.S. needed 51,000 more truck drivers that are currently working, and the numbers are expected to keep rising. 

Today's millennials are seemingly uninterested in becoming truck drivers. Additionally, only about 6% of U.S. truck drivers are female, which leaves more than half of the workforce untouched.  

As a developer of autonomous technology and EVs, Einride might attract tech savvy people to the trucking industry. In other words, being the "remote pilot" of an autonomous truck might be an attractive job, and a pretty cool one too.

"We are excited to open up an entirely new category of jobs, that will not only benefit the industries currently employees with improved hours, working conditions, and knowledge but reinvigorate a dying employment sector for the next wave job seekers." 

Tomorrow's "autonomous truck drivers" will be able perform this high-tech job in a more stress free environment, as the AETs that Einride is developing are filled with technology that outperforms a human driver.

"The continued development of autonomous vehicles will place new demands on the workforce and raises questions about the future working environment of drivers/operators," said Robert Falck, founder, and CEO of Einride.

The first remote driver will be hired in Sweden next month and in Q3 of 2020 in the United States. After a thorough training process, the first commercial "drivers" are slated to begin their new roles as remote AET operators in Q3 2020 and later this year in the U.S.

The structured rollout plan will include a 9-month trial period which will incorporate a research and development phase. This new role will be designed in conjunction with the training period for the remote operators. 

The program will incorporate feedback from trainees, which will optimize the overall experience and guidelines for future drivers. The final steps will be to  transition additional on-road truck drivers to become remote autonomous truck operators.

Einride predicts that by implementing the use of remote autonomous truck operators, they will reduce fuel and energy costs by 70%, lower transport costs by 30%, reduce operating costs by 60% and increase productivity by 200%, since the automated trucks can operate 24 hours per day. Einride's electric AETs will also reduce CO2 emissions by 90%.

In the coming years, as Level-4 self-driving technology is implemented on scale in the freight industry, the trucking industry will change dramatically from what it is today.

Imagine a future world where thousands of AETs safely travel the world's highways with a team of highly-trained remote operators overseeing and assisting them as needed. It seems like a cool job and Einride is looking to make it happen.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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