Innovations and Start-Ups: Uber for Trucking, Autonomous Freight, Drones, and More…

Martijn Graat
Martijn Graat

Trends and innovations in supply chain and logistics. That’s what this blog is all bout. Therefore I bring you an overview of my highlights of the news this week on logistics start-ups and innovations below. Follow @LogisticsMatter on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest news and the best background stories. Last week it was Autonomous Vehicles, Robots, and Tunnels. This week it’s Uber for Trucking, Autonomous Freight, Drones, and more…

Uber Uber (~ Goldband)

Uber started in 2009 and initially focused on transporting people, positioning itself as an alternative to taxi services. It started developing self driving vehicles in 2014. In that same year the company also ventured into logistics. It started a delivery service called UberEats in 2014. 

In 2016 it acquired autonomous truck company Otto It experimented with developing self-driving trucks until 2018. In the meantime they launched Uber Freight.

The company is still not making money, although it’s numbers are slowly improving. It lost 968 million dollars in Q4 of 2020, which is an improvement over the 1.1 billion dollar loss of the same period the year before. One of its rising stars is Uber Freight, which increased sales with 43% has gotten its losses down to 41 million, down from 55 million in the same period last year.

The company has set the bar and many companies have followed in its wake launching similar Uber for Trucking-like services. A few examples are Freightbro, Convoy, Transix, BlackBuck, and GoShare.  

And Uber keeps testing new services. It just launched a same-day parcel collection and delivery service in the UK.  The service is called Uber Connect and was launched in 2020. It is already active in 25 cities in countries like Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the US.

In the meantime, Uber competitor Lyft is looking to the future and it sees itself transporting both people and goods with autonomous vehicles, also moving it’s business more towards B@B.

Truckin’ (~ Grateful Dead)

Start-up SmartHop has just raised 12 million dollars in a Series A round. The company’s AI-powered app-based solution helps interstate truckers with improving their routes and removing administrative hassles.

Autonomous trucking company Einride and European retailer Lidl are launching a connected electric transport system that they have been developing together since 2017. The autonomous Einride truck will drive a 324-kilometre route delivering an average of 104 pallets to 5 Lidl stores in the Stockholm area. 

Gatik, a company deploying autonomous trucks is taking it’s innovation on step further. It will electrify its autonomous vehicles to significantly reduce carbon emissions. Gatik has partnered with Walmart for short-haul deliveries, that are a perfect fit for the 120 mile range the trucks have.

Self-driving trucks have all sorts of sensors and they create huge amounts of data that needs to be stored and processed. An article about Torc Robotics, which runs the Daimler Truck program with the Freightliner Cascadia, talks about millions of gigabytes of data. And these petabytes of data are just from a few dozen trucks. The next generation of these trucks will have more accurate sensors creating even more data.

Drones (~ Muse)     and other news…

Another drone startup joins the ranks of companies developing drone delivery solutions. Indian start-up Redwing labs specialize in delivering medical cargo.

And a quick round-up of other interesting news: Michelin is going to transport half of its Atlantic cargoes via new and innovative wind-powered freighters operated by the French start-up NEOLINE. Their vessels are not fully wind-powered but also uses a diesel-electric system.

Route optimization is common for delivery operations on land, but it makes just as much sense on the oceans. It is the reason for being of, a start-up that came out of stealth mode this week. uses artificial intelligence to optimize shipping routes based on fuel efficiency, profit and safety.

Blue-collar marketplace Shift One has also emerged from stealth. The company aimes to connect available labor with logistics companies in need of staff. The company not only matches the right people with the right job, but also identifies and upskills top talent when it comes to logistics workers. 

Coca Cola is testing a recyclable paper bottle in Hungary this summer. The company plastic bottles play a big role when it comes to plastic pollution. The company will test the package’s performance and the response of the consumers.

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

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