Embark wants to make self-driving trucks without getting rid of drivers


Hot on the heels of the new lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc.’s self-driving truck company, Otto, a new self-driving truck startup called Embark has just launched with some impressive tech.

Founded in 2016, Embark aims to revolutionize commercial trucking, which it calls “the backbone of our economy.” However, while most autonomous vehicle programs seek to eliminate the need for drivers entirely, Embark says it’s focused on making life easier for professional truck drivers by automating only some of the job rather than all of it. Namely, Embark wants to automate “long-haul” highway stretches between cities while leaving the more difficult city street driving to the operator.

As with other autonomous vehicles, Embark’s trucks use a combination of cameras, LiDAR and other sensors to “see” the world around them. Meanwhile, the trucks use artificial intelligence techniques such as machine learning and deep neural networks to make sense of all of the data and learn how it should react to different situations.

“Analyzing terabyte upon terabyte of real-world data, Embark’s DNNs have learned how to see through glare, fog and darkness on their own,” Embark Chief Executive and co-founder Alex Rodrigues said in a statement. “We’ve programmed them with a set of rules to help safely navigate most situations, how to safely learn from the unexpected, and how to apply that experience to new situations going forward.”

Embark is backed by a multimillion-dollar investment led by Maven Ventures and several angel investors, and the company said it plans to quadruple the size of its engineering team over the next year.

Embark has already received approval to test out its vehicles on public roads in Nevada, and the company said that its technology is capable of driving “from exit to exit on the freeway without any human input.” Still, Rodrigues said that there is plenty of testing left to do, and Embark plans to aggressively expand its testing capabilities as it grows.

“We are committed to proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that this technology is safe and reliable,” said Rodrigues. “That means performing extensive tests and working with our partners in the government to get it—and the market—ready.”

Image: Embark