Canadian Tire is teaming up with Toronto-based startup NuPort Robotics, Canada’s first autonomous trucking company, to partner with the Ontario government to invest $3 million to undertake an automated heavy duty trucking project to test a first-of-its-kind-in-the-world technology.
Officials said the breakthrough technology provides a transportation solution for the middle mile – the short-haul shuttle runs that semi-tractor trailers make between distribution centres, warehouses, and terminals each day – by enabling next-generation automated trucks that are more fuel efficient, safer to operate, and provide an enhanced driver experience.
“The trucks are currently transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 20 kilometre radius, and early results are promising,” said Raghavender Sahdev, CEO 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.”
NuPort was founded in 2019. Sahdev said its mission is to improve transportation safety, increase efficiency and reduce costs for clients in retail, logistics, and manufacturing. NuPort’s proprietary AI technology allows existing trucks to drive autonomously for short distances and is suited for high frequency, repetitive short-haul shuttle runs between distribution centres, warehouses, and terminals.
He said the company builds a retrofit system for an existing fleet of trucks to enable them to have automated technology over short distances.
“What this means is we enable trucks to operate in a safe, efficient and a more eco-friendly manner from one point to another. In Canadian Tire’s case this is between a distribution centre to a nearby rail terminal. This could be any short distance – something less than 25 miles or 40 kilometres, around that ballpark,” added Sahdev. “That’s our sweet spot. Our average distances are on the order of 10 kilometres or seven miles.
“The partnership with Canadian Tire means a lot for us. Canadian Tire is our first client and we are absolutely proud to have them as our client. It’s a two-year pilot wherein we are retrofitting two trucks to deploy NuPort technology on that and at the end of the day leading with a more safer, more efficient, and reduction in carbon emissions, leading to a more sustainable deployment of technologies.”
Gary Fast, Vice-President of Transportation, Canadian Tire, said the retailer embraces innovation and is always testing new technologies to improve its operational efficiency and safety.
“As proud Canadian companies, the safety of all stakeholders, including drivers, employees, customers, and public will be the top priority as we work together towards deployment of this technology,” he said.
Cari Covent, Vice President of Intelligent Automation, Canadian Tire, said the company has made a significant effort over the last three years to solve complex business problems by using the Canadian start-up Artificial Intelligence ecosystem.
“NuPort Robotics exemplifies what we look for in a start-up with a focus on innovation, automation and artificial intelligence,” she said.
The two-year project between Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics has $1 million in support through the Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN). Investments of $1 million are being matched by both Canadian Tire and NuPort.
The project includes 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 high-tech sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other advanced features such as obstacle and collision avoidance.
Sahdev said NuPort’s approach to autonomous trucking is unique in the industry because it focuses only on solving the middle mile challenge, using a known set of predetermined trucking routes that are repetitive and high frequency as opposed to general highway driving. Ultimately, when implemented on fixed routes in the future, Canadian Tire will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability, he said.
Sahdev, one of the co-founders of the company, is considered one of the leading Canadian AI entrepreneurs with more than eight years of experience in applied AI, Robotics, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, business strategy, and various start-ups.
Bao Xin Chen, a co-founder and CTO, is also a leading Canadian technologist with a unique style of deploying AI algorithms on autonomous vehicles, and mobile robots. He has more than seven years of experience in Robotics, Computer Vision, and Machine Learning. He has also won multiple research awards for his work.
In a statement, Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, said the province is proud to be a global leader in automated and connected vehicle technology and this innovative project, with Canadian Tire and NuPort, is an exciting milestone toward automated vehicle tech in the trucking industry.
“Ontarians rely on goods being delivered by trucks across the province every day and projects like this are demonstrating the ways that automated truck technology could help businesses meet delivery demands more efficiently while supporting a strong supply chain in Ontario,” she said.
AVIN is an initiative by the Government of Ontario, led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), designed to reinforce Ontario’s position as a North American leader in transportation technology and infrastructure systems.