A truck without a cab or driver is now being tested on a public road in Sweden, mixing with other traffic as it moves goods around an industrial zone.
Swedish startup Einride began operating the electric truck on a short stretch of road in Jönköping, a transport hub in the heart of Scandinavia, on Wednesday.
Einride said the trial, which is due to run until the end of 2020, is the first time a fully self-driving truck without a backup driver has been allowed on a public road.
The “T-Pod” truck is supervised remotely by an operator who can take control if necessary. Other companies have completed test runs on public roads with a driver inside the vehicle ready to take over.
The 26-ton truck is equipped with cameras, radars and 3D sensors, which give it 360-degree awareness of its surroundings. Built by Einride, it uses an autonomous driving platform made by NVIDIA (NVDA), and its systems are connected via a 5G network. It has a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles).
The route it takes from a warehouse to a freight terminal building is just 300 meters long, but it includes five right-angle turns and a 100-meter stretch of road used by other trucks and vehicles.
An Einride spokesperson said the T-Pod will be making the trip several times a day during the trial.
The truck can reach speeds of up to 85 kilometers per hour (53 miles per hour), but is only allowed to drive at 5 kilometers per hour (3 miles per hour) during the trial. The speed limit was set by the Swedish Transport Agency.
While the road can get busy, traffic speeds are generally low, the spokesperson added.
Businesses around the world are getting excited about the prospect of driverless trucks given the growing shortage of drivers.
The American Trucking Associations said transport companies need roughly 60,000 extra drivers. In Europe, there are 150,000 unfilled truck driver positions, according to Transport Intelligence, a logistics research company.