Originally setting out to secure $31 million in funding, Fernride’s project garnered substantial interest from investors, resulting in the increased funding amount.
Key investors in this venture include Munich Re Ventures, Bayern Kapital, and Klaus Kleinfeld, the former executive of Siemens, who is poised to lead Fernride’s board of directors. Additionally, HHLA and DB Schenker, subsidiaries of Deutsche Bahn, have also shown their support for the project as backers.
Fernride, in collaboration with industry giants such as Volkswagen, DB Schenker, and HHLA, conducts rigorous testing of their semi-autonomous trucks. These tests take place in controlled environments and are characterized by low-speed operations. For instance, HHLA utilizes Fernride’s trucks to move containers within the Hamburg port, while Volkswagen employs them for the transportation of goods within their manufacturing facilities.
One notable aspect of Fernride’s project is that their trucks operate autonomously approximately 80% of the time. Human intervention is required only when specific situations demand remote guidance.
The core philosophy behind Fernride’s project is to strike a balance between high levels of automation and human involvement. As technology continues to evolve, these semi-autonomous trucks are expected to gain even greater independence, expanding their applicability beyond their current use cases.
According to Reuters, CEO Hendrik Kramer said Fernride is actively engaged in comprehensive testing procedures utilizing a small fleet of trucks, catering to esteemed clients such as Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), DB Schenker, and HHLA. These tests are being conducted within controlled and privately-owned environments, ensuring safety and precision. The trucks operate at speeds not exceeding 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) per hour.
Within this testing framework, HHLA, the operator of the Hamburg port, has adopted Fernride’s autonomous vehicles for the purpose of container transportation. Simultaneously, Volkswagen has integrated these vehicles into their manufacturing facilities to facilitate the transport of semi-finished goods.
Fernride’s trucks demonstrate an impressive 80% level of autonomy during their operations, a testament to their advanced technology and capabilities. In cases where specific situations necessitate intervention or guidance, a team of remote human operators is readily available to step in and provide the necessary assistance for the remaining 20% of the time.
“Our hypothesis that you shouldn’t pursue full autonomy, but a very high level of autonomy is very good … and requires a human in the loop,” Kramer said.
As the technology improves, Fernride’s trucks will be gradually be able to operate autonomously more of the time and the company’s customers will eventually start adding use cases outside yard operations, Kramer said.