Outrider granted U.S. patent for determining trailer angle

AI-powered system can automate distribution yard trailer truck tractors


Outrider’s patents include automation systems for hitching, backing, trailer brake line connection, yard inventory tracking, as well as integration with management systems.
Outrider was granted its 11th U.S. patent covering its portfolio of AI-powered distribution yard automation systems for trailer truck tractors and loading docks.

Autonomous trailer distribution yard systems provider Outrider recently announced the issuance of its latest patent, U.S. Patent No. 11,927,676 for “Systems and Methods for Determining an Articulated Trailer Angle.” 

The patent covers the task of determining where a trailer is with respect to a self-driving truck tractor, which Outrider said can help facilitate safe and accurate autonomous trailer movement in all weather conditions. 

Outrider said it will begin shipping its commercial system to top Fortune 500 customers in the second half of 2024. Outrider has employees in 10 countries developing and supporting its industrial-grade automation technology. 

Previous deployments included Georgia Pacific

Outrider provides autonomous trailer distribution yard operations systems for logistics hubs, including autonomous electric truck tractors, trailer line connectors, and loading dock systems. The company now has 11 issued patents and over 50 pending patents in the U.S. and internationally. 

“Outrider’s patent portfolio covers the numerous inventions, innovations, and technologies our team developed,” said Andrew Smith, Outrider founder and CEO. “In 2017, we recognized that autonomously moving 50,000-pound semi-trailers day and night in all-weather conditions would require unique inventions.”

Shortly after its first patent was issued in August 2021, Outrider used its technology to perform fully autonomous trailer moves in a production environment at Georgia Pacific in November 2021. Since then, Outrider said it has completed tens of thousands of autonomous trailer moves for its customers in the package shipping, consumer packaged goods, automotive manufacturing, retail, ecommerce, and intermodal industries.

Patents cover hardware and software for trailer yard operations

Outrider said its patented products can facilitate fully autonomous trailer movement, including hitching, backing, trailer brake line connection, distribution yard inventory tracking, as well as integration with WMS, yard, and transportation management systems. Outrider has one or more patents or patents pending that cover the its technologies for automating distribution yards, including:

Autonomous yard operations: Outrider invented an end-to-end system for safely moving trailers autonomously. Operations include navigating obstacles in complex environments, hitching and unhitching from trailers using autonomous fifth wheel movement, connecting and disconnecting brake lines, backing to warehouse dock doors and parking spots, tracking trailer inventory, monitoring electric yard truck charging, and managing autonomous operations. 

Robotic connection of air brake and electrical lines: TrailerConnect is Outrider’s adapter-based and adapterless method for connecting and disconnecting air brake and electrical lines on autonomous yard trucks to modified or unmodified semi-trailers and chassis. Outrider said the commercial TrailerConnect will use deep learning robot arms to connect and disconnect to unmodified trailers in less than 30 seconds, and connect within seconds to captive fleets of trailers outfitted with adapters. 

Loading dock operations: Additionally, Outrider said its products can enable safe autonomous operations at loading docks. The company’s autonomous yard trucks communicate with safety systems at dock doors to determine whether a dock is ready for loading or unloading. Dock door modification designs allow swing doors on trailers and shipping containers on chassis to be opened and resealed inside the facility while the trailer remains at the loading dock. Pending patents further address Outrider’s products to address swing door opening in autonomous yards.

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Outrider’s patents include automation systems for hitching, backing, trailer brake line connection, yard inventory tracking, as well as integration with management systems.

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