Canadian national retailer Canadian Tire Corp. and Toronto-based start-up NuPort Robotics Inc., an autonomous trucking company, have partnered with the Ontario government to invest $3 million to undertake an automated heavy-duty trucking project to test new technology.
The companies say the technology provides a transportation solution for the middle mile, the short-haul shuttle runs that semi-tractor trailers make between distribution centers, warehouses and terminals each day. It is designed to enable next-generation automated trucks that are more fuel efficient, safer to operate and provide an enhanced driver experience, the companies say.
Backed by $1 million in support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) and matched by $1 million investments from both Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics, the two-year project is applying proprietary, artificial intelligence (AI) technology from NuPort Robotics to retrofit two conventional semi-tractor trailers – which will always be attended by a driver – with sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other features such as obstacle and collision avoidance.
“The trucks are currently transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the greater Toronto area and nearby rail terminals within a 12.5-mile radius, and early results are promising,” said Raghavender Sahdev, chief executive officer of NuPort Robotics. “The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety. The sensors work as a ‘safety cocoon’ to cover blind spots and prevent accidents and the end result is peak fuel efficiency, meaning lower carbon emissions and peak driving performance for an overall more optimal transportation experience.”
Ultimately, when implemented on fixed routes in the future, Canadian Tire says it will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability.