A global pandemic didn’t stop Toronto entrepreneur Raghavender Sahdev from innovating. On the contrary, he spent the time propelling Canada’s trucking industry far into the future with the launch of the country’s first autonomous trucking company, which will use eco-friendly, self-driving electric trucks for short-haul shuttle runs between distribution centres, warehouses and ports.
The disruptive technology has earned Sahdev, 26, a prestigious award from Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
In recognition of his successful work through his start-up, Toronto-based NuPort Robotics, Sahdev — President and CEO of NuPort Robotics, who first came to Canada from India as a Mitacs intern at the University of Toronto and then went on to earn his Master’s in Computer Science at York University — will be presented the Mitacs Environmental Entrepreneur Award on September 2 at a virtual awards ceremony.
Along with a co-founder, 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.
“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 needing to be filled.
“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. Since its launch, the company has grown from two to 10 people, and is on track to increase to 16 next year.
Sahdev is one of five winners of the Mitacs Entrepreneur Award who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians.
“The global pandemic highlights more than ever how important it is to recognize and support local innovation and Mitacs is extremely proud of the continued creativity and ingenuity shown by our network of young entrepreneurs,” said Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn, pointing to a survey that shows nearly two out of every 10 Mitacs interns choose to pursue their own business. “Not only will their inventions ultimately help Canada to recover from this crisis, but with continued investment in talent, research and development, they will ensure we keep our spot in the global innovation economy.”
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