Will Semi-Truck Autonomous Technology Soon Take Over The Roads?
Autonomous trucking startup Embark is unveiling its technology for the first time, showing off a competitor for Uber’s Otto that uses neural networks and deep learning to teach trucks how to drive on their own through their own processes of trial and error and practice. Embark’s trucks are approved to test on Nevada roads. The company’s technology is capable of handling potential obstacles like a slow car occupying the lane in front, and pass on undivided highways. According to Embark co-founder and CEO Alex Rodrigues, it can handle fog, darkness, and glare having learned to do so on its own.
For the time being, the technology Embark has created is not designed to replace human drivers altogether.
Rather, its intentions are to take over control on long stretches of relatively boring and straightforward driving, while also passing control to human drivers when it enters complex driving scenarios like those found in cities. The company’s foundation was based on the fact that there’s presently a truck driver shortage, and its technology can help add to the number of routes a human driver can handle by decreasing their actual time spent actively driving. Even though driving is, across categories, a huge employment category in the country, it is also true that most overland freight providers are also looking to add to their organization of capable drivers.
Rodrigues’ team at Embark includes SpaceX alumni, as well as people from Audi’s autonomous team. The startup also has funding from Maven Ventures, which also backed Cruise, the self-driving company GM acquired for $1 billion to help jump-start its own autonomous vehicle development efforts. There’s no specific schedule of deployment of the autonomous truck, but the company is ramping its engineering hiring aggressively and hopes also to build out its group of testing vehicles for its Nevada trials. With Uber’s Otto facing strong legal challenges from Alphabet’s Waymo, now might be exactly the right time for a new self-drive trucking startup to roll out.