Canada’s first self-driving truck company disrupts how goods are moved

Eco-friendly business aims to reverse trend of “brain drain” — top talent leaving Canada — by creating jobs in artificial intelligence

A global pandemic didn’t stop Toronto entrepreneur Raghavender Sahdev from innovating. On the contrary, he spent the time propelling his start-up, NuPort Robotics, Canada’s first autonomous trucking company, which will help advance Canada’s trucking industry far into the future by using eco-friendly, self-driving electric trucks for short-haul shuttle runs between distribution centres, warehouses, and ports.

Along with co-founder Bao Xin Chen, he started NuPort Robotics, a MaRS portfolio company, in March 2019. Their company’s disruptive technology is poised to change the way retailers, manufacturers and logistics companies move goods by improving the efficiency of their supply chains, reducing their operational costs and increasing sustainability through the adoption of clean transportation solutions.

Unlike global competitors that are taking a more general approach to autonomous trucking, NuPort is targeting only the “middle mile” delivery in a company’s supply chain.

Ambitious drive

“We’re currently the only company in Canada working on autonomous, self-driving trucks for short distances,” said Sahdev, noting that the middle mile is typically between five and 20 kilometres and often takes place in industrial regions. “We want to establish Canada as the leading country for autonomous vehicles in the world.”

NuPort’s technology — which includes a proprietary state-of-the-art navigation system that incorporates high-tech sensors and controls — will be offered on a robot-as-a-service (RaaS) model. Client trucks are converted from manual to autonomous operation and then managed by NuPort as they move along a fixed route.

Not only can overall operating costs be decreased significantly, he said, but greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, and clients no longer have to worry about the severe driver shortage currently facing Canadian companies, estimated to be as high as 22,000 vacancies.

“We’re working to fill that gap in the industry and at the same time, we’re creating new jobs,” said Sahdev, explaining that his company will hire oversight officers, inspection officers, and mechanics, among other positions, as they begin to deploy the innovative technology at scale. “We’re aiming to reverse the trend of ‘brain drain,’ or top talent leaving the country, by creating jobs for artificial intelligence professionals in Canada.”

NuPort Robotics is currently running pilot projects to deploy its technology with major retailers and players in the trucking and transportation industries. With early commercialization set for the near future, the company is looking to partner with other leading transportation companies and is also seeking seed investments to boost its growth strategy.

Road to success

Sahdev — President and CEO of NuPort Robotics — first came to Canada from India through the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program, where he studied at the University of Toronto with Professor Reza Emami within the Institute for Aerospace Studies. He later went on to earn his master’s in computer science at York University.

The disruptive technology has earned Sahdev, 27, one of the prestigious 2020 Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards, which recognize researchers’ efforts to turn their work into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians. Since 2014, Sahdev has generously given his time to mentor next generations of Globalink Research Internship award recipients.

NuPort Robotics has grown from two to 10 people and is on track to increase to 16 in 2021.

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from valued partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to foster innovation and economic growth throughout the country.

We are also grateful to our international partners. In 2020–21, Mitacs is pleased to work with partners in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States to support Globalink (see full list of Globalink partners).

For information on partnering with Mitacs to manage innovation, visit Mitacs’s small business enterprise page.


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