Former SpaceX engineers announce autonomous electric rail system startup

Three former engineers from Elon Musk’s SpaceX have formed a startup to innovate in the rail transportation market, using electric and autonomous rail carts to shuttle shipping containers to where they need to go.

Called Parallel Systems, it closed its Series A funding round with a cool $49.55 million. Parallel believes the freight industry is a great place to bring innovation and build competition for rail transportation.

The team of SpaceX founders includes Matt Soule, former head of avionics, John Howard, head of batteries, and Ben Stabler, head of avionics software. Now the three are CEO, VP of Hardware, and VP of Software, respectively at Parallel. The mission they have is to move part of the US trucking industry to its battery-operated rail carts.

Parallel aims to combine the efficiency of moving freight by rail with the independence of not being tied to a single large train. Parallel’s cars can move along rails by themselves or link up in what the company calls platoons. Platoons can use smaller depots and bring freight closer to the end-user, with the goal to be more efficient than trucks.

“Our unit economics don’t depend on a very big train,” said Soule. “We can move in smaller platoons and rather than dwelling all day for the unloading and loading operation, we’re in and out within an hour or two, leaving room for other platoons to come in. It’s the more efficient footprint and it enables things like serving ports and creating inland port shuttle systems so you can move the containers from a seaport to an inland port, which is often a better place for trucks to go and are closer to warehousing activities.”

via TechCrunch

The new funds Parallel has will be used to expand its company by hiring nearly 60 new employees. Most of these new positions will be in software. According to its website, the company is hiring every position from entry-level to directors at either Palo Alto or Culver City, California.

The end goal for Parallel is to decarbonize the freight industry. While the grid isn’t all using clean energy, taking out the diesel or natural gas-powered trains and trucks will open up the industry to reducing carbon emissions when the grid is cleaner in the future.

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