Emerging from what it calls two years of “stealth-mode operation,” tech developed Outrider announced it has raised $53 million in funding and deployed initial pilots of its Outrider System, the first-to-market solution focused on autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs.
The company noted that the goal of distribution yards is to keep trailers full of freight moving quickly in the space between the warehouse doors and public roads. However, many of the processes that make up yard operations are manual, inefficient, and hazardous.
“Logistics yards offer a confined, private-property environment and a set of discrete, repetitive tasks that make the ideal use case for autonomous technology," said Andrew Smith, founder and CEO of Outrider. "But today’s yards are also complex, often chaotic settings, with lots of work that’s performed manually. This is why an overarching systems approach – with an autonomous truck at its center – is key to automating every major operation in the yard.”
Outrider said its system automates the repetitive, manual aspects of yard operations, including moving trailers around the yard, moving trailers to and from loading docks, hitching and unhitching trailers, connecting and disconnecting trailer brake lines, and monitoring trailer locations. At scale, Outrider will deliver yards that are more efficient, safer, and more sustainable, Smith added.
Today, Outrider is demonstrating its solution through pilot programs with Georgia-Pacific and four Fortune 200 companies in designated sections of their distribution yards.
“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,” said Annant Patel, vice president of automation transformation at Georgia-Pacific. “Yard operations has been one of our opportunities, and Outrider has been a great partner to help us automate our pilot site.”
In order to solve the complexities of yard operations, Outrider said it has developed an integrated, three-part system, including management software, autonomous zero-emission yard trucks that feature vision-based robotics, and site infrastructure. The Outrider System integrates with existing supply chain software used by large enterprises.
“Modern distribution yards won’t be just autonomous, they’ll be electric,” Smith added. “Electric yard trucks are easier to operate and maintain than their diesel counterparts, and they lend themselves to better computer control. Our mission is to work with customers and suppliers to rapidly retire the more than 50,000 diesel-polluting yard trucks currently operating at logistics hubs throughout the U.S.”
To develop the safety case for its system, Outrider said it is working with both customers and outside experts. It also references existing functional safety standards and is helping define the next-generation standard for Level 4 Autonomy System Design.
“Outrider is introducing the transformational technology required for large, logistics-dependent enterprises to keep pace,” added Jake Medwell, founding partner at 8VC, one of the companies providing the funding. “We consider hundreds of investment opportunities in the logistics space every year. Our decision to be an early investor in Outrider was an easy one. Andrew’s vision and plan for the industry are highly compelling, and he’s mobilized an unmatched team to execute.”
Outrider currently has more than 75 employees including 50 engineers solely focused on distribution yard automation. Combined, engineering project leads have more than 100 years of hands-on experience in ground-vehicle autonomy and robotic automation from organizations and universities, such as Lockheed Martin, iRobot, Tesla, Nvidia, Cruise LLC, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and others.