Founder & CEO, Outrider
[Tuck] is a great example of how wilderness and healthy living environments can inspire business to bring more sustainable technology into how we operate in the world.
Trucks in the U.S. alone haul approximately 10 billion tons of freight each year. Most of this freight passes through distribution centers—sprawling buildings with expansive parking lots where truck trailers are dropped off, unloaded, reshuffled, reloaded, and eventually sent on to their next destination.
Specialty vehicles called yard trucks, which stay on distribution center property, are then used to shuffle trailers throughout the distribution yard from parking spots to loading bays. A misplaced trailer could mean the warehouse is unable to load the trailer on time and delivery is delayed.
“This is a key link in the supply chain that is very inefficient and unsafe,” says Andrew Smith T’07, founder and CEO of Outrider, which provides autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs.
As drivers jump in and out of yard trucks and move around the yard, the constellation of these 80,000-pound vehicles poses a serious safety hazard, particularly at night and during severe weather.
For Smith, the confined, private-property environment and set of repetitive tasks performed at these distribution centers make them the ideal use case for autonomous technology, which also eliminates the need for some 50,000 diesel-burning yard trucks currently in operation throughout the U.S.
“These yard trucks are operating on a daily basis, around the clock, spewing out diesel emission,” says Smith. “The electric vehicle platform combined with automation technology is far superior for enterprises and will accelerate the decommissioning of these diesel trucks, creating a much safer, more efficient autonomous yard solution.”
Outrider uses an integrated, three-part system that includes management software, autonomous zero-emissions yard trucks that feature vision-based robotics, and site infrastructure. Since incorporating in 2017, the company has received more than $53 million from tier-one investors and is currently working with several Fortune 100 brands on pilot programs in designated sections of their yards. Hiring straight through the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith says the Outrider team has grown to more than 90 employees with expertise in engineering, cloud computing, and logistics.
Sustainability in the trucking and logistics industry has been a focus for Smith, inspiring his first venture, ATDynamics, a company he co-founded during his first year at Tuck. ATDynamics patented and sold TrailerTails—attachments that reduce aerodynamic drag behind tractor trailers and save 5 percent of the fuel burned at highway speed. Smith sold ATDynamics to EnPro Industries in 2015.
Both ventures, Outrider and ATDynamics, reflect Smith’s commitment to creating jobs in ways that respect the natural environment, a passion he says grew significantly during his time at Tuck.
“A lot of people come to Tuck because it is a really unique environment. They’re very appreciative of the outdoors,” Smith says. “It’s a great example of how wilderness and healthy living environments can inspire business to bring more sustainable technology into how we operate in the world.”
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