Outrider Intros Autonomous Hitching Technology

July 28, 2021

Reliable, consistent tractor-trailer hitching is critical for autonomous yard operations.

Outrider is the first company to offer advanced, automated tractor-trailer hitching capabilities. This patent-pending technology is now available as part of the Outrider System, which automates distribution yards for large, logistics-dependent enterprises.

More than 10 billion tons of freight moves across the US annually, and most of that freight passes through distribution yards in trailers. “Nearly all the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the materials we use are transported by trucks and trailers,” said Andrew Smith, Founder and CEO of Outrider. “Outrider automates yard operations, helping enterprises improve the efficiency and safety of a critical step in their supply chains. Hitching and unhitching is an integral part of yard automation and the global trucking industry, occurring millions of times per day.”

Distribution yards – the area between the warehouse and the public road – have a high concentration of repetitive hitching due to constant re-positioning of trailers. The Outrider System uses this advanced technology to hitch and unhitch from trailers reliably and consistently in order to move them to and from parking spots and dock doors at distribution centers.

Using advanced perception, motion planning, and proprietary control algorithms, Outrider’s technology enables its autonomous yard trucks to optimally align in front of semi-trailers, back under the trailer, and attach the fifth wheel (the connection point of the truck) to the kingpin (the connection point on the trailer) with extreme precision. Not only does the Outrider System connect with millimeter accuracy, but also it uses sensors to confirm a successful kingpin connection without requiring manual verification.

“Most autonomous trucking companies are focused on moving trailers down long stretches of public roads. Outrider is focused on moving trailers in distribution yards, where autonomous hitching technology is critical to automating the entire operation,” added Smith. “There is an endless array of slight differences in trailer position and configuration when a truck connects to a trailer. Outrider’s engineers have built groundbreaking technology that adapts in real-time to hitch to trailers of diverse heights, weights, and orientations.”

The Outrider System consists of three integrated elements — management software, autonomous vehicles, and site infrastructure. Using proprietary autonomy technology, the Outrider System hitches to and un-hitches from trailers, robotically connects and disconnects trailer brake lines, interacts safely with loading docks, tracks trailer locations, and centrally manages and monitors all system functions.

To advance its mission to commercialize sustainable freight transportation, Outrider is working with multiple Fortune 500 companies, has raised a total of $118M in funding, filed extensive intellectual property, completed multiple pilot programs, and established a broad partner ecosystem. Outrider was recognized by Gartner, Inc. as a 2020 “Cool Vendor in Supply Chain Execution Technologies.”

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