Last year, GE Appliances and Einride successfully completed a pair of pilots that employed a heavy-duty, autonomous, electric vehicle from Einride driven on public roads to move finished goods from a Monogram Refrigeration plant to a nearby warehouse in Selmer, TN. Monogram Refrigeration is a subsidiary of GE Appliances, which is owned by Chinese multinational Haier.
The first pilot was in a gated environment at GE’s Appliance Park headquarters in 2021, followed by a public road pilot, without a driver on board, that took place in Selmer in 2022. The most recent was the first of its kind approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This week, the project was promoted to a full-time deployment. Einride's autonomous EV is now transporting goods in Selmer, TN from GE Appliances' factory to its warehouse, the journey is about 3/4-mile. The vehicle, the Einride Gen 2 has a range of about 112 miles. According to Einride, the news marks an important step in the integration of autonomous transportation supporting full-time commercial flows.
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The truck can shuttle goods up to seven times per day, running Monday through Thursday, without producing any tailpipe emissions.
The autonomous vehicle is part of a larger interoperability project in Selmer to create an automated logistics flow designed to improve employee ergonomics and safety around the loading docks.
GE Appliances also partnered with TaskWatch and Slip Robotics. The TaskWatch AI cameras trigger a control board to raise and lower the dock doors and dock plate, and lock the Einride autonomous vehicle into place. It tells a SlipBot autonomous mobile robot from Slip Robotics that the Einride vehicle is ready for loading.
The all-electric SlipBot autonomously loads and unloads the vehicle, reducing loading times by 80%, according to the company. Ericsson is providing the private network to ensure reliable communication between the vehicle and a remote operator on site.
According to Harry Chase, senior director of central materials at GE Appliances, the project allows employees to focus on high value tasks, reduces traffic in congested areas and eliminates some of the most challenging ergonomic tasks like climbing on and off a forklift and hooking and unhooking trailers.
GE Appliances doesn’t have a timeline for when additional vehicles will hit the road, but it remains a business case for commercializing autonomous vehicles.
In August, GE Appliances announced a $34 million investment to expand refrigeration manufacturing and create 150 new jobs at Monogram Refrigeration.