Robert Falck, the CEO of Swedish start-up Einride, said the company was in partnership talks with major suppliers to help scale production and deliver orders, and the firm did not rule out future tie-ups with large truckmakers.
Getting a public road permit is a major step towards commercialising autonomous technology on roads.
“Since we’re a software and operational first company, a partnership with a manufacturing company is something that we see as a core moving forward”, he said, adding he hoped to seal a deal by next year.
Falck said Einride, whose investors include ex-Daimler Asia trucks head Marc Llistosella, is looking for funding.
Einride’s T-Pod is 26 tonnes when full and does not have a driver cabin, which it estimates reduces road freight operating costs by around 60 percent versus a diesel truck with a driver.
Einride has orders from German grocer Lidl, Swedish delivery company Svenska Retursystem and five Fortune 500 retail companies, underpinning its ambition to have 200 vehicles in operation by the end of 2020.
Schenker picked Einride over established truckmakers as the T-Pod straddles the two biggest sector transformations: digitisation and electrification, CEO Jochen Thewes said.
“We believe that Einride is the best concept out there for now”, he said.
The T-Pod is level 4 autonomous, the second highest category, and uses a Nvidia Drive platform to process visual data in real time. An operator, sitting miles away, can supervise and control up to 10 vehicles at once.
The T-Pod has permission to make short trips - between a warehouse and a terminal - on a public road in an industrial area in Jonkoping, central Sweden, at up to 5 km/hr, documents from the transport authority show.