A self-driving tractor-trailer equipped with technologies developed by Embark has completed a 2,400-mile test drive from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida.
Embark, a San Francisco start-up founded by 22-year-old robotics enthusiast Alex Rodrigues, did not manufacture the truck but developed a self-driving system that can be integrated into Peterbilt trucks and potentially other vehicles.
Embark’s self-driving vehicle technology employs a range of sensors comprised of five cameras, three long-range radars, and two or more light detection and ranging sensors (lidars) that feed information to a dynamic CPU that controls the vehicle.
Whereas other self-driving vehicle companies such as Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise “pre-map” their routes and use onboard sensors to augment their maps, Embark relies on dynamic machine-learning software fed by data from its onboard sensors to map its surroundings in real time and avoid obstacles.
Embark has integrated its self-driving technology into five semi-trucks and plans to expand its fleet by 40 vehicles this year to complete more long-haul deliveries and advance its testing.
“Big Blue,” the name given to the truck that completed the coast-to-coast run, handled nearly all of the driving itself as it travelled Interstate 10 to Jacksonville. A professional driver was always onboard ready to take over the driving if needed.
“The driver is always responsible for being attentive and making sure that everything is safe, but the driver will regularly go many hours down the road without actually being involved, and when they are involved, it’s usually just for a few seconds,” Mr. Rodrigues told Transport Topics.
The self-driving truck made the five-day journey in late January and completed its return trip to Los Angeles on Feb. 6. The driver adhered to normal hours-of-service regulations for commercial drivers, which is why the truck didn’t drive straight through.
“When Embark first introduces its system commercially, it will be as a factory-installed system offered through original equipment manufacturers rather than as an aftermarket kit,” Transport Topics reported, citing Mr. Rodrigues.