California-based Solo Advanced Vehicle Technologies is aiming to create an electric heavy-duty truck platform designed for autonomous trucking.
These platforms will be compatible with any autonomous driving software, so autonomous vehicle companies can easily add and remove their own self-driving software and sensor suite. The startup, founded by Waymo, Tesla and BMW alumni, aims to address the inefficiency of using existing human-centric trucks for autonomous driving.
“For nearly five years, I’ve done sensor integration analysis on Class 8 trucks for Waymo and worked closely with Packer and Daimler, and it’s become very clear that you can get this really high-tech sensor suite from the AV industry. can take over, and then you have this old human-powered diesel truck that hasn’t really changed in about 100 years,” Solo AVT founder and CEO Graham Durley gaming-updates said. To integrate, it’s just a lot of problems.”
Issues such as inability to place sensors in optimal locations, inefficient powertrains and compromised aerodynamics, said Durley, noting the need for a hardware and software solution that can handle advanced autonomous technologies and commercialize them on a large scale.
With a recent $7 million seed funding round led by Trucks VC with participation from Maniv Mobility and Wireframe Ventures, Solo AVT is gearing up to complete the design and construction of its first test vehicle, a battery-powered Class 8 truck. summer,” the company said in a statement. Solo AVT will then use the knowledge of its “test mule” to design and develop its Alfa SD1 Heavy truck. This truck will have stable and optimized sensor placement, which the company says is not possible with older trucks.
The new capital injection will also help Solo AVT grow its all-engineer team from eight now to around 18 by the end of next month.
The Solo AVT truck platform will not be human-powered and therefore will not have human controls such as a driver’s seat or steering wheel. However, they will be built with a remote control system on top of the AV stack so people can still maneuver around the hub, or if needed, Durley said, noting that the company plans to use Alpha vehicles. on the road by 2024
Swedish truck technology company Einride is also developing an off-grid electric solution for trucks. The company just hired its first “pod operator”, a trained and licensed truck driver who remotely oversees InRide autonomous pods, and opened in the US last year. began testing some of its utility and electric trucks in the US.
Autonomous truck companies such as Waymo Via, Aurora, Tusimple, and Kodiak Robotics partner with traditional OEMs, who often start by redesigning test trucks and then moving on to co-create special-purpose trucks. For example, Waymo is designing a unique version of the Via Daimler Cascadia cargo truck specifically for Waymo drivers from the ground up. TuSimple has partnered with Navistar to create specialized autonomous trucks, while Aurora has partnered with Volvo VNL.
Even though these vehicles are not technically upgraded, these trucks will still look and feel like class 8 trucks – they will be diesel powered and have manual controls. The latter has been a requirement for some companies to allow testing, especially in states like California, where companies typically start with driver-assisted testing licenses and may choose not to drive.
“We see that there will be some operations that will still require manual control, such as when the truck is in the loading bay,” said gaming-updates Cheng Lu, former chairman and CEO, CEO and current advisor to TuSimple. “Whether it’s electric vehicles or hydrogen diesel engines for long-term freight transport, there are still some limitations, but of course we are looking forward to alternative powertrains and look forward to adopting them.”
Legacy OEMs bring many benefits, including being able to offer warranties, aftersales support and parts, Lu said, noting that the ability to remotely control an autonomous truck keeps TuSimple on track.
Waymo said it is important for the company to have a cab with conventional controls in the short term so that human drivers can move the vehicle when needed, such as for maintenance or during testing.
IBut in the long term,A Waymo spokesperson told gaming-updates: “There could definitely be some interesting design changes here that we will hear about. We expect changes based on the development of our technologies (and technologies in general), as well as the development of autonomous truck use cases. as both play a very important role in the development of our vehicles.”
Fully autonomous trucks must be built with redundant systems that can handle it if the controls fail. The autonomy system must also be linked to sensory inputs and controls. It’s a challenge that AV companies like Aurora have turned to legacy OEMs because they rely on OEMs to build safe and scalable trucks, but probably because there aren’t many on the market.
“While Waymo, TuSimple, etc. work with OEMs, the trucks they have autonomous equipment on are not designed or optimized for autonomy, and so while it is possible to install autonomous equipment, this is mostly compromised by the integration sensors and situational perspective,” Dorley said. “In addition, older diesel truck platforms are not completely redundant, which is important for autonomy, and an autonomous system is extremely difficult to set up reliably. Our platform was designed for autonomy from the start and is therefore completely redundant. After all, integrating autonomy into human-powered diesel trucks is costly and not scalable. ,
In addition to testing its Mule this year, Solo AVT plans to continue its initial funding with Series A in the coming weeks. Dorley did not say how much the company expects to raise, but said the number would be significant, and Solo is looking for strategic investors who can grow the company, such as shippers, telecom operators, manufacturers, AV companies and suppliers. , and no wonder.
While Solo has a strong software element, it also ends up making electric vehicles. And, as we’ve seen with companies like Rivian, Lucid Motors, and Lordstown Motors, it’s hard to hit production targets in this economy, even if you had all the venture capital you could spend and still with Solo. many. burn money.
To this, Dorley replied that cars and pickups already require far more parts, equipment, and quantities than Class 8 trucks. Add to that the fact that Solo vehicles have neither an interior nor complex body shapes to be stamped.
“We understand that these devices require less capacity and volume,” says Durley. “We’re also a few years behind, so hopefully today’s supply chain issues will be sorted out a little more.”