Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Outrider raises $53m to develop autonomous yard operations

Steve Rogerson
February 25, 2020



Emerging from two years in stealth mode, Colorado-based Outrider, a developer of autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs, has raised $53m in funding and deployed initial pilots of its technology.
 
The seed and series A funding rounds were led by NEA and 8VC, respectively.
 
The goal of distribution yards is to keep semi-trailers full of freight moving quickly in the space between the warehouse doors and public roads. However, many of the processes that make up yard operations are manual, inefficient and hazardous.
 
“Logistics yards offer a confined, private-property environment and a set of discrete, repetitive tasks that make the ideal use case for autonomous technology,” said Andrew Smith, founder and CEO of Outrider. “But today’s yards are also complex, often chaotic settings, with lots of work that’s performed manually. This is why an overarching systems approach – with an autonomous truck at its centre – is key to automating every major operation in the yard.”
 
Outrider automates the repetitive, manual aspects of yard operations, including moving trailers around the yard, moving trailers to and from loading docks, hitching and unhitching trailers, connecting and disconnecting trailer brake lines, and monitoring trailer locations. At scale, Outrider could deliver yards that are more efficient, safer and more sustainable.
 
Outrider is demonstrating its technology through pilot programmes with Georgia-Pacific and four Fortune 200 companies in designated sections of their distribution yards.
 
“We’re constantly looking for ways to transform our company and the way we get work done, especially making work safer and more efficient and productive,” said Annant Patel, vice president of automation transformation at Georgia-Pacific. “Yard operations has been one of our opportunities, and Outrider has been a great partner to help us automate our pilot site.”
 
To solve the complexity problems of yard operations, Outrider developed an integrated, three-part system, comprising management software, autonomous zero-emission yard trucks that feature vision-based robotics, and site infrastructure. The system integrates with existing supply chain software used by large enterprises.
 
“Modern distribution yards won’t be just autonomous, they’ll be electric,” said Smith. “Electric yard trucks are easier to operate and maintain than their diesel counterparts, and they lend themselves to better computer control. Our mission is to work with customers and suppliers to rapidly retire the more than 50,000 diesel-polluting yard trucks currently operating at logistics hubs throughout the USA.”
 
To develop the safety case for its system, Outrider is working with customers and outside experts. It is also referencing existing functional safety standards and is helping define the next standard for level-four autonomy system design.
 
“Outrider is introducing the transformational technology required for large, logistics-dependent enterprises to keep pace,” said Jake Medwell, founding partner at 8VC. “We consider hundreds of investment opportunities in the logistics space every year. Our decision to be an early investor in Outrider was an easy one. Andrew’s vision and plan for the industry are highly compelling, and he’s mobilised an unmatched team to execute.”
 
Based in Golden, Colorado, Outrider has more than 75 employees including 50 engineers focused on distribution yard automation. Combined, engineering project leads have more than 100 years of hands-on experience in ground-vehicle autonomy and robotic automation from organisations and universities, such as Lockheed Martin, iRobot, Tesla, Nvidia, Cruise, Ford Motor, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, US Armed Forces, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and Northwestern University.
 
Outrider is backed by NEA, 8VC, Koch Disruptive Technologies, Fraser McCombs Capital, Prologis Ventures, Schematic Ventures, Loup Ventures, Goose Society of Texas, and other top-tier investors.