Outrider Inc., a provider of autonomous yard trucks for logistics hubs, today said it is the first company to offer advanced, automated tractor-trailer hitching capabilities. This patent-pending technology is now available as part of the Outrider System, which automates distribution yards for large enterprises.
More than 10 billion tons of freight moves across the U.S. annually, and most of that freight passes through distribution yards in trailers, said the Golden, Colo.-based company.
“Nearly all the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the materials we use are transported by trucks and trailers,” said Andrew Smith, founder and CEO of Outrider. “Outrider automates yard operations, helping enterprises improve the efficiency and safety of a critical step in their supply chains. Hitching and unhitching is an integral part of yard automation and the global trucking industry, occurring millions of times per day.”
Outrider automates hitching
Distribution yards – the area between the warehouse and the public road – have a high concentration of repetitive hitching because of constant repositioning of trailers. The Outrider System can now hitch and unhitch from trailers reliably and consistently to move them to and from parking spots and dock doors at distribution centers.
The Outrider System consists of three integrated elements — management software, autonomous vehicles, and site infrastructure. The system autonomously hitches to and un-hitches from trailers, robotically connects and disconnects trailer brake lines, interacts safely with loading docks, tracks trailer locations, and centrally manages and monitors all system functions.
Using advanced perception, motion planning, and proprietary control algorithms, Outrider said its technology enables its autonomous yard trucks to optimally align in front of semi-trailers, back under the trailer, and attach the fifth wheel (the connection point of the truck) to the kingpin (the connection point on the trailer) with extreme precision.
Not only can the Outrider System connect with millimeter accuracy, but it can also use sensors to confirm a successful kingpin connection without requiring manual verification, said the company.
“Most autonomous trucking companies are focused on moving trailers down long stretches of public roads,” Smith said. “Outrider is focused on moving trailers in distribution yards, where autonomous hitching technology is critical to automating the entire operation.”
“There is an endless array of slight differences in trailer position and configuration when a truck connects to a trailer,” he added. “Outrider’s engineers have built groundbreaking technology that adapts in real-time to hitch to trailers of diverse heights, weights, and orientations.”
Outrider claimed to be the “only company exclusively focused on automating all aspects of yard operations.” The startup said it can eliminate manual tasks that are hazardous and repetitive, as well as drive the rapid adoption of sustainable freight transportation by deploying zero-emission systems.
The private company said it has raised a total of $118 million in funding from NEA, 8VC, Koch Disruptive Technologies, and other investors. Outrider has filed for multiple patents to protect its intellectual property, completed multiple logistics pilot programs, and established a broad partner ecosystem.
It is working with multiple Fortune 500 companies and was recognized by Gartner Inc. as a 2020 “Cool Vendor in Supply Chain Execution Technologies.”