Munich-based autonomous trucking startup Fernride has closed a further $19mn in its Series A funding round, neatly pushing the total amount raised in the round to $50mn.
Founded in 2019, Fernride has developed autonomous vehicle software that converts trucks into self-driving machines. These haulers operate at Level 4 autonomy which means the vehicle can drive itself within a specific area — albeit with a bit of supervision from a remote driver.
There is a current shortage of 400,000 truck drivers in Europe — a figure projected to increase to two million by 2026. Despite autonomous driving being a potential solution to these challenges, many attempts to introduce such autonomy fail, partly due to regulatory roadblocks.
A spin-off from the Technical University of Munich, Fernride bypasses some of the red tape hindering other self-driving car companies by focusing (for now) on trucks for private industrial sites like factories, terminals, and shipyards. This allows the company to scale its product now, and tackle the multiplicity of problems associated with deploying autonomous vehicles on public roads later.
Fernride is currently working with four big names, including Volkswagen’s logistics unit and DB Schenker, part of the German rail group Deutsche Bahn. It currently has a fleet of six autonomous trucks with plans to scale to 20 by the end of 2023. These yard trucks are limited to 30 kmph, and stop to call a remote operator if they don’t “understand” a situation. Fernride trains a remote operator on every site where its trucks are deployed.
New investors include Germany’s DeepTech and Climate Fonds (DTCF) and the ERP special fund, as well as Munich Re Ventures, Bayern Kapital, and Klaus Kleinfeld, who becomes chair of Fernride’s board.
“By starting with teleoperations that initially keeps a human in the loop, we believe Fernride’s step-by-step approach is the optimal path towards building fully autonomous capabilities,” said Timur Davis, director at Munich Re Ventures.
Armed with fresh funds, the startup now looks to scale operations with its existing customers (which alone have a combined 1,000 yard trucks suitable for automation). Fernride also looks to explore new customers and markets, with plans to expand to the US sometime in 2025.