Knight-Swift will work with autonomous-technology company Embark to integrate Embark trucks into the country's largest truckload fleet, which Embark said is the next step on the path to commercialization.
The new Truck Transfer Program marks the first public initiative through which a U.S. carrier will directly own and maintain an Embark-equipped truck, according to Embark, which called it a major step on the path to eventual purchase and ownership of Embark-equipped trucks by carriers.
Until now, Embark and other autonomous developers have operated a testing model in which they own, maintain, and dispatch autonomous trucks, placing their own drivers behind the wheel during hauls for shipper and carrier partners. “This configuration has generated valuable early insights into real-world technology performance and how best to integrate Embark-equipped trucks within existing supply chain operations,” according to a news release.
Embark and Knight-Swift will be able to collect detailed driver feedback on the technology’s performance and define how the system will improve driver jobs. The two companies also will be able to develop procedures and tools that enable Knight-Swift to maintain, inspect, dispatch, and remotely monitor Embark-equipped trucks.
Embark plans to equip a set of Knight-Swift trucks from the carrier’s slated 2022 OEM deliveries with the Embark Universal Interface. The two companies are also developing workflows to account for truck maintenance, dispatching, and IT integration points, among other things. Embark plans to deliver the first Embark-equipped trucks to Knight-Swift for use in daily operations by the end of 2022.
The two companies have been closely collaborating to prepare for this project, including detailed network assessments, tech analyses and evaluations, planning for truck supply, and discussions of driver pain points.
The program will help Knight-Swift determine how best to use its limited driver workforce to address the growing demands of the national supply chain, such as when to have drivers haul loads alongside autonomous capacity, when to have drivers team-drive with the Embark Driver, or under what circumstances to have drivers move local hauls to fulfill the last mile. Overall, the program will help define the proper blend of models to apply across the network over time.