Embark Trucks is the latest autonomous-truck developer to move into Texas, which is becoming a hotbed of driverless-truck technology.
The Dec. 9 announcement of its expansion into Texas included the launch of a new autonomous trucking lane between Houston and San Antonio. The company also unveiled its new autonomous trucking facility. It expects to begin hauling freight for its partners between San Antonio and Houston as early as 2022 and plans commercial launch of the Embark Driver in 2024.
Embark also announced it will partner with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and will work closely with the Center for Autonomous Vehicles and Sensor Systems and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University on research and testing as it prepares for its “driver-out” pilot in 2023.
The company will use the university’s expertise and test track to pioneer new AV capabilities and work toward achieving milestones that represent the final hurdles to deploying commercially viable autonomous trucks. Those include challenges such as emergency vehicle interactions, pulling over to safety in emergency situations, and performing evasive maneuvers, it said.
Houston, Embark said, is a trucking hub that is well positioned for commercially viable long-haul autonomous freight. It's at the center of key 600-plus-mile trucking lanes, which Embark said are ideal for automation because they cannot be completed in a single day by a human driver due to hours-of-service limitations. A 600-mile run could take approximately 22 hours to complete manually, assuming full compliance with the federal hours of service rules, while that same run would take just 12 hours to complete autonomously, according to the company.
Texas boasts a thriving autonomous vehicle sector, due in part to the Lone Star State’s extensive public-private partnerships.
“By engaging with developers to support the safe operation of autonomous trucks, the Texas Departments of Transportation and Public Safety have established Texas as a leader well-positioned to reap the safety and efficiency benefits of the technology,” Embark noted in the announcement. Embark is a longstanding participant in the Texas Department of Transportation’s Connected and Automated Vehicle Task Force.
The expansion comes less than a month since the company went public.