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UPS tests autonomous electric shifters

Steve Rogerson
March 24, 2020

UPS has started testing electric lorries with autonomous driving capability at its London technology hub.
The logistics giant has begun testing the suitability and durability of French company Gaussin’s electric vehicles, which also have autonomous driving capability, to move semi-trailers and containers on the grounds of the hub.
During the initial phase of the test, UPS will operate the vehicles – known in the logistics industry as shifters – with drivers in the cabs to evaluate vehicle operations and the efficiencies they generate. Later this year, UPS will progress to the next phase of operation, initiating autonomous driving operations.
“These tests are part of a major UPS effort to integrate electric vehicles throughout our global network,” said Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer. “Gaussin’s shifters will help cut our fuel costs and reduce emissions. We’re also eager to test the shifters in autonomous driving mode. This is a great opportunity for us to evaluate technologies on our own property.”
Gaussin electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions and include novel battery-swap technology, which enables the shifters to be operated day and night, as the discharged battery pack is immediately replaced by a fully charged one. Additionally, the vehicles will have numerous cameras, sensors and algorithms to improve safety. These technologies should create efficiencies and improve safety in UPS operations.
“Testing these electric and autonomous-capable shifters is part of UPS’s transformation strategy, which is enabled by technology and innovation,” said Carlton Rose, UPS president of global fleet maintenance and engineering. “We continue to pursue and deploy the latest vehicle technology that has the potential to enhance our operational efficiency, while taking an evolving approach in implementing autonomous vehicle technologies.”
Gaussin and UPS engineering teams have been in close collaboration since 2018 to co-develop a versatile, upgradable and competitive electric shifter vehicle. The Gaussin shifter UPS is testing in London can move trailers, semi-trailers and containers in both manual and autonomous mode.
“This collaboration with UPS brought valuable insights to Gaussin engineering teams, and we are pleased to see the vehicle in live operations,” said Christophe Gaussin, Gaussin chief executive officer. “Our shifters will save maintenance and energy costs. Our unique battery swap system will allow continuous operations and will contribute to UPS’s operational efficiency and productivity increases.”