Embark Hauls Frigidaire On Semi-Autonomous Trucks

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Embark has partnered with Frigidaire and Ryder to haul appliances on semi-autonomous trucks on lesser-traffic highways.

Embark Hauls Frigidaire On Semi-Autonomous Trucks

Straight from a scenario you would imagine in Australia, where trucks drive for miles on end through the country’s straight highways, how do these trucks drivers do it? Mile after mile of endless roads, often-time stretched to the horizon, makes you wonder how they fight sleepiness and outright insanity. Embark trucks have decided it’s time to do something about it. By embracing autonomous technology, it started driving a semi-autonomous truck called Otto to deliver smart fridges from its partner Frigidaire — from Texas to California — with Ryder as the trucking platform.

Embark Hauls Frigidaire On Semi-Autonomous Trucks

The autonomous driving technology for highways between those two particular states makes sense. For one thing, traffic is fairly low and makes for an almost ideal testing condition. The road conditions are predictable and there are less unexpected obstacles. Embark backs its case by saying that this is where professional drivers are the most vulnerable to distractions and drowsiness. By equipping existing trucks with sensors, they can safely drive for hours. This is somewhat similar to Tesla’s almost-completely autonomous driving system that relies on visual and radar technology to read traffic signs and detect traffic.

Embark Sees Its Semi-Autonomous Otto Truck Work

Embark claims that the self-driving future of transportation has been focused on a passenger-vehicles-only world. But commercial trucking is where it is. Indeed, part of the nation’s own economy would benefit from automated trucks, especially for the long haul industry.

Embark claims that roads will be safer, goods cheaper, and truckers called upon to use their skills in new ways. Now, wait a second, where have we heard this before? Many industries asserted that the automation of tasks in the 1980s would liberate us to focus more on worthy jobs. We’re not sure we would go that far these days.

Embark Hauls Frigidaire On Semi-Autonomous Trucks

Using a Level 2 autonomous driving system (see here for more details), autonomous driving for the trucking industry is a big deal. The reason is that finding truckers is increasingly difficult as the hours are long, the pay not that great, and ownership or rental of trucks certainly throws a monkey wrench into the equation. In fact, a two-year-old study from the American Trucking Association says we will have a shortage of 175,000 drivers by 2024.

According to Embark CEO Alex Rodrigues, “More than 50% of all drivers will retire in the next two decades and there aren’t nearly enough young drivers joining this industry to replace them… By allowing automation to work together with local drivers to handle less desirable long-haul routes, we will be able to increase productivity to address the current 50,000 driver shortage wile also creating new local driving jobs that attract younger drivers for the industry.”

Essentially, Embark envisions a Ryder driver dropping its trailers somewhere before the long journey begins. At that point, Embark’s semi-autonomous system takes over until it nears destination. At this point, a new driver takes the truck and handles the last few miles.

Embark Semi-Autonomous Driving Future

To date, Embark claims it has clocked 650-mile trips as of October and is continuing to do so. What is newsworthy here is that the company claims that this is the first time anyone has conducted an end-to-end autonomous driving system for semi-trucks. And no, we won’t go into the Uber versus Embark’s trade secret story. That’s another story.

You can follow its progress on LinkedIn and YouTube, but so far the company hasn’t given much more news than what we have. We look forward to future developments, because the idea of somewhat automating long-haul truck driving makes a lot of sense. After all, the aviation industry has an auto-pilot, why wouldn’t Embark do the same? Just please leave the drivers onboard, please.

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Nicolas Zart

Nicolas was born and raised around classic cars of the 1920s, but it wasn't until he drove an AC Propulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Ever since he has produced green mobility content on various CleanTech outlets since 2007 and found his home on CleanTechnica. He grew up in an international environment and his communication passion led to cover electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, renewable energy, test drives, podcasts, shoot pictures, and film for various international outlets in print and online. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he has forged in those industries. His favorite taglines are: "There are more solutions than obstacles." and "Yesterday's Future Now"

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