Autonomous vehicle technology company Embark has completed a 2,400-mile, coast-to-coast journey in one of its self-driving trucks.
The journey began in Los Angeles, with the truck traveling along Interstate 10, one of the country’s busiest freight corridors. It ended five days later in Jacksonville, Florida. The company said the journey helps prove that mapping out long-distance trips is not a barrier for self-driving trucks.
Since last year, the San Francisco-based startup has been running its self-driving Class 8 trucks on routes between Los Angeles and El Paso, transporting products on a limited basis for the manufacturing company Electrolux. But this latest journey is much longer, a significant milestone for the company, which envisions future where autonomous trucks can increase efficiency by running long-haul routes 24 hours a day.
“When we announced our Los Angeles to El Paso route we promised that was the just first stage of a much larger expansion,” said Alex Rodrigues, Embark CEO. “The coast-to-coast demonstration we completed today is four times longer than our El Paso route, which was already the longest in the world.”
Currently, Embark’s trucks have a professional driver in the cab as a safety measure, actively monitoring the road, supervising the system and ready to take over control when needed. Because the driver was constricted by hours-of-service rules, the trip took longer than it would have had it been able to run without those limitations.
Once Embark’s tech is ready and cleared to run on its own, Embark expects the trip to take only two days in total, according to TechCrunch, which also reported that the truck went "hours at a time with no disengagements, and when they did occur they were usually only a few seconds," according to Embark CEO Alex Rodrigues.
“One of the most exciting aspects of this technology to our partners, like Electrolux, is being able to shrink their supply chains and take advantage of just-in-time manufacturing strategies.” Rodrigues explained. “Similarly, the growing e-commerce industry requires these sorts of two-day routes to get products to consumers in an acceptable time frame.”
Embark’s system doesn’t rely on high-resolution maps of the road that some of its competitors use, meaning that the company didn’t have to map out the route inch-by-inch before the journey, according to the company. Embark’s system instead uses machine learning to reconstruct a model of the world using its sensors in real time.
Embark’s fleet has been growing in recent months, increasing from two trucks to five, Rodrigues said the company plans to purchase a total of 40 trucks by the end of the year.