For the past four years, Swedish startup Einride has captured interest, investment and even a few customer contracts for its unusual-looking pods — electric and autonomous vehicles that are designed to carry freight. But progress in developing, testing and validating autonomous vehicles — particularly ones that don't even have space for a driver and rely on teleoperations — is an expensive and time-consuming task.
The company has made some progress with its T-Pod vehicles; four of them are on public roads today and even carry freight for customer Oatly, the Swedish food producer. Now, a year after raising $25 million, the company said it has another $10 million coming in from its existing investors.
The announcement comes ahead of a new vehicle the Einride will unveil October 8. Not much is known about the vehicle; Einride has only supplied a short and obscure teaser video.
Einride said the $10 million in new funding was led by impact fund Norrsken VC and included participation from EQT Ventures fund, Nordic Ninja VC and Ericsson Ventures. Norrsken VC is also joining Einride's advisory board.
The capital will be used to fast track the official launch of its Einride Pods, the company said. Einride acknowledged that startups in AI and robotics were upended, and even shuttered altogether, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company contests that demand for contactless delivery options — not coincidentally the kind it hopes to provide — has grown because of COVID-19. Einride said it's maintained a "strong stream of new partnerships," including onboarding partners Oatly and supermarket chain Lidl as well as launching a freight mobility platform designed to give customers information on shipping volume, distance driven and associated emissions and help pick the most efficient routes.
"There is both a lot of excitement and a lot of uncertainty about autonomous trucking, but the fact remains: this is one of the largest business opportunities in the history of mankind," said Einride CEO Robert Falck said in a statement, who added that the company expects to see the autonomous transport industry expand exponentially in the coming years, especially in the wake of a global pandemic.