Robotics & Automation News

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Outrider equips autonomous trucks with deep-learning driven robotic arms

Outrider, the startup developing autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs, has releaseed TrailerConnect – a patented technology that robotically attaches the needed brake and electric lines from yard trucks to any of the over 10 million trailers and chassis circulating globally.

A deep-learning based technology, TrailerConnect is now available as part of the Outrider System, which automates distribution yards for large, logistics-dependent enterprises.

In distribution yards around the globe, yard trucks transition semi-trailers from dock doors to parking spots to public roads. To move these trailers, truck drivers connect pressurized brake lines to semi-trailers to release the parking brake and move the trailers around the yard – a hazardous manual task that requires the driver to get in and out of the cab constantly.

Andrew Smith, CEO and founder of Outrider, says: “Outrider is reinventing the modern distribution yard to be more efficient, safer, and sustainable, and we are delivering the breakthrough technology like TrailerConnect to do it.

“TrailerConnect automates a dangerous task traditionally performed over 6 billion times annually worldwide. Four years of development and close partnerships with our priority customers has resulted in a technology integral to autonomously moving freight.”

While trailers may look very similar, their connectors – the coupling devices used to connect the brake and electric lines from truck to trailer – are quite different. As a result, there is an almost infinite combination of connector placements and conditions across trailer fleets.

TrailerConnect uses proprietary software algorithms, hardware, and sensors integrated onto Yaskawa-supplied arms to locate, identify, connect to, and disconnect from semi-trailers without modifications or adapters.

Matt Johannes, vice president of hardware and robotic engineering at Outrider, says: “Decades-old attempts to automatically connect trucks to semi-trailers have fallen short due to modifying entire trailer fleets or addressing the diversity of the gladhands themselves.

“The best minds in robotics, perception, and deep learning solved this problem to bring immediate value to customers.”

The patented TrailerConnect technology is the latest in a series of industry-firsts for Outrider. Achievements include the first-to-market yard automation solution that performs fully autonomous, zero-emission trailer moves, high-precision autonomous articulated backing, and autonomous hitching for diverse trailer weights and orientations.

Outrider has performed tens of thousands of fully autonomous trailer moves across its Fortune 500 customer sites and at its full-scale Advanced Testing facility.

Julian Counihan, general partner at Schematic Ventures, which specializes in supply chain and commerce infrastructure, says: “The rollout of TrailerConnect combined with a long list of technical firsts further solidifies Outrider’s leadership position in the industry and has a massive impact on the trucking sector at large.

“Autonomous yard operations – a critical part of a streamlined global supply chain – is simply not a reality without the ability for self-driving vehicles to connect to and from trailers.”

Outrider has raised $118 million in funding to date and holds extensive intellectual property. The company operates the first-in-industry Advanced Testing Facility for autonomous yard operations designed to mimic the distribution yards of its logistics-dependent customers from multiple industries, including consumer packaged goods, retail and eCommerce, package shipping, and manufacturing.

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