ON February 6th, Embark announced their semi-autonomous truck had made the 2400 mile journey from Los Angels to Jacksonville, FL. Though the truck had a human driver on hand in case of emergencies, Embark stated the truck did almost all of the driving for the duration of the trip. Because the truck had a human driver on board, it was still bound to stop running so the driver could rest for the required hours, making what could have been a two day trip into a five day journey.
As a national shortage of truck drivers causes capacity and rates to increase, the idea of self driving autonomous trucks is attractive to shippers and carriers though the drivers themselves aren’t eager to watch their profession fall to automation. Embark states they’re not looking to displace drivers, especially since drivers are required for non-highway roads. Their goal is to reduce the work-load and strain on drivers across long sections of highway where driver fatigue is common, and can be deadly.
Embark doesn’t manufacture trucks, but they have integrated the self-driving systems into 5 existing Peterbilt trucks and plan to acquire 40 more this year for further testing and long-haul deliveries. These trucks will also have human drivers on board as they’re not yet capable of running the truck off of an interstate and through small towns. Unlike other up and coming self-driving vehicles, Embark uses machine AI software and data from the sensors on-board its trucks to map its surroundings in real-time and avoid obstacles. Others begin with an existing map of the journey and plan their routes ahead of time, using data and sensors to supplement the trip.