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Outrider Launches Autonomous Backing for Semi-Trailers

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February 10, 2022

Outrider, which develops autonomous yard operations for logistic hubs, has announced fully autonomous trailer backing capabilities for its fleet. The proprietary technology enables autonomous yard trucks to back trailers into tight spaces with precision, and without modification to trailers. The new capabilities are now available as part of the Outrider System, which automates distribution yards for large, logistics-dependent enterprises.

“Automation is key to relieving the inflationary pressure on the supply chain,” said Andrew Smith, founder and CEO of Outrider. “Distribution yards are critical links in the supply chain and prime targets for automating the flow of goods between over-the-road transportation and fulfillment centers, warehouses and manufacturing plants. Automating yards requires backing trailers of all kinds safely and precisely into parking spots and dock spots billions of times a year.”

Outrider said articulated backing is one of the most challenging maneuvers in the trucking industry, especially in confined distribution yards. It’s also crucial to autonomous yard operations, because several different trailers must be backed into dock spots and parking spots without damage. For example, when backing into a dock spot, trailers must be on-center and in exact contact with the docks – all within finite spaces.

The company said its articulated backing technology is fully autonomous, adheres to strict operational requirements, and can seamlessly control a trailer through its full range of motion. The Outrider System can precisely back semi-trailers including 28-foot, 48-foot, and 53-foot dry van trailers, containers, and refrigerated trailers – all without teleoperation or other types of human interaction.

“By developing advanced algorithms and integrating with sensors and actuation, we’ve delivered the accurate trailer backing necessary for yard automation,” said Jeremy Nett, vice president of software engineering at Outrider. “Outrider validated this proprietary testing at its Advanced Testing Facility and customer sites – running under multiple conditions, day and night. This achievement is a result of a highly collaborative cross-functional effort across our perception, motion planning and controls, hardware, and test teams to develop and commercialize this technology.”

The  Outrider System includes three integrated parts: management software, autonomous vehicles, and site infrastructure. The system uses autonomy technology to hitch and unhitch from trailers, robotically connect and disconnect trailer brake lines, interact safely with loading docks, track trailer locations, and centrally manage a nd monitor all system functions.

“While other autonomous vehicle companies focus on safely pulling trailers down a highway, Outrider is focused on efficiently moving the world’s freight through congested distribution yards,” said Smith. “With this backing technology, our customers can automate their distribution yards as they continue to respond to the global demand for their products.”

The company has raised $118 million in funding, and was recognized by Gartner as a 2020 “Cool Vendor in Supply Chain Execution Technologies” recipient. For more details on the system, visit the Outrider website here.

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