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AI-powered trailer auto-coupling system for autonomous trucks

by Pieter Werner

ISEE, an autonomous vehicle company, has introduced a new AI-powered trailer auto-coupling system for autonomous yard trucks at the Manifest supply chain technology showcase. This system autonomously couples trailers and connects airlines without requiring any modifications, adapters, or markers on the trailers, nor does it need remote control.

The technology utilizes a six-axis robotic arm mounted on the back of the autonomous yard truck cab. It leverages AI to autonomously identify the precise locations and orientations of the trailer air connectors, known as gladhands, which are used for the service and parking brakes. These gladhands vary in their location, orientation, and type across different trailers, presenting a challenge for consistent and efficient coupling. The system’s AI-powered capability has been developed based on extensive operational data from over 10,000 moves at customer sites, enabling it to accurately and autonomously connect airbrake lines.

This development is particularly significant in the context of workplace safety. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 30% of injuries in the trucking industry are associated with drivers slipping or falling while performing tasks such as connecting trailer air lines. Automating this process reduces the need for manual intervention, thereby enhancing safety and simplifying management processes.

Yibiao Zhao, CEO and co-founder of ISEE, emphasized the use of generative AI models for data augmentation and feature generation in their latest technology. The system is designed to adapt and handle diverse gladhand variations and environmental conditions, demonstrating a capability akin to human dexterity in locating and handling the gladhands.

ISEE’s new AI-Powered Trailer Auto-Coupling Technology supplements their existing patented auto-coupling solution, which uses a trailer adapter to standardize connectors across a fleet. These adapters can be attached and removed as trailers enter and leave a yard, suitable for customers who manage a controlled fleet or use a captive pool of trailers. With this latest development, ISEE offers customers a choice in the level of automation for trailer coupling in their operations.

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