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Outrider raises $73M to market its self-driving electric yard trucks

Some speculate that advancements in autonomous car technology are no longer the driving force behind the industry’s current wave of excitement. Despite this, venture financing is still being attracted by startups employing the technology in agricultural, commercial, and logistical contexts.

As an illustration, consider Outrider, a company based in Golden, Colorado, which is creating driverless electric yard trucks.

Supply chains literally “start and stop” in distribution yards. The distribution centre is the first stop for long-haul trucks carrying products (such those bought from Amazon and other e-commerce enterprises) before they are stored in warehouses. Diesel-powered yard trucks are now often used to drive trailers with products throughout the yard and to and from the loading docks.

Outrider’s autonomous system features an electric yard vehicle, operations management software, and site infrastructure. Hitching and unhitching trailers, connecting and disconnecting trailer brake lines, and monitoring trailer positions are all tasks that the autonomous system takes care of, albeit people may still be needed at the distribution yard.

Many investors are considering this system because of its promising profit margins; there are around 400,000 distribution yards in the United States alone. This past week, Outrider recruited additional investors including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and NVIDIA’s venture capital organisation, NVentures, to help conclude a $73 million Series C round headed by FM Capital. Existing supporters Koch Disruptive Technologies and New Enterprise Associates were joined by new investors B37 Ventures, Lineage Ventures, Presidio Ventures, the investment arm of Sumitomo Corporation, and ROBO Global Ventures.

Since its inception in 2017 as Azevtec, Outrider has amassed $191 million in funding.

Since the last funding round in the fall of 2020, the firm has made some strides. In an interview with TechCrunch, Outrider CEO and creator Andrew Smith said that the vehicles’ cutting-edge hardware, like as robotic arms, are built to withstand extreme conditions. While the business is still finalising the system’s full capabilities and patented safety procedures, Outrider now has 20 autonomous systems in use at client locations and its test centre, Smith said.

He also said that by the year 2023, all of the necessary adjustments to the system will have been made. Customers like Georgia Pacific and others that have engaged in collaborative product testing and pilot operations since 2019 will be the primary focus as the company moves into commercial operations. Approximately 20% of all yard trucks in North America, according to Smith, are owned by clients of Outrider.

Smith has stated that the extra capital would be utilised to expand the company’s personnel both domestically and abroad (beyond its current 175 employees) and to move swiftly from pilot projects and validation testing to full-scale commercial operations.

Smith remarked, “It’s one thing to have a car operating autonomously, but it’s another thing to have a really industrial system that can function in a severe environment over multiple years, 20 to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Over the next several years, we want to expand to thousands of systems running Outrider software, which will require productizing the system and integrating the remaining features.