Just as robotaxi services are testing self-driving passenger cars, autonomous trucks are joining existing fleets. Embark Trucks Inc. and Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. today announced that Embark has provided the first truck using its autonomy technology as part of the Truck Transfer Program, or TPP.
The companies claimed that TPP is the first public initiative in which a carrier will directly own and operate a truck with select features of Embark's automated driving software. This will allow Embark to gain valuable insights from having its system components operating in a carrier customer's duty cycle, they said.
“I am excited to take delivery, so our drivers and customers can provide direct feedback on the technology as we use it in day-to-day operations to enable new safety and efficiency in trucking,” said Dave Jackson, CEO of Knight-Swift.
Knight-Swift said it is one of North America's largest and most diversified freight transportation companies. In most cases to date, autonomous truck developers have owned, maintained, and dispatched their own trucks, Embark noted.
Embark to power customer-owned fleet
Knight-Swift will place its own drivers behind the wheel of an Embark-powered truck, allowing the carrier to collect data regarding system safety and operational performance. The first Embark-powered truck will begin integrating into Knight-Swift’s daily operations to move loads for large shippers on the Los Angeles to Phoenix lane.
To meet the uptime requirements of a commercial fleet, Embark said it has focused on hardening its Embark Universal Interface and Embark Driver software. This system hardening includes improvements in calibration and maintainability of the system, enabling quick troubleshooting so that trucks can get back on the road.
Embark and Knight-Swift said they have been jointly working to prepare for the handoff of Embark-powered trucks into Knight-Swift’s daily operations. These initiatives include developing maintenance procedures for autonomous vehicle systems, pre- and post-trip inspections, training and certifying Knight-Swift drivers, and escalation policies for maintenance issues.
In addition, Embark is training Knight-Swift technicians on how to service and interact with the trucks
While on the road, the company said the trucks will be monitored and supported by Embark Guardian, a combination of cloud-based fleet management software and personnel that will monitor the health of the Embark system and work to enhance safety on the road.
Knight-Swift to provide go-to-market insights
The companies noted that the perspective of Knight-Swift's drivers should provide critical insights about Embark’s system as it continues to execute on its commercialization effort and go-to-market strategy.
“Handing over the first Embark-powered truck to the Knight-Swift team tops off a year in which Embark has made critical strides to close the gap between testing our autonomous technology and scaling it across customer fleets, said Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark. “The Truck Transfer Program will be a model for the industry as we move from the R&D and pilot phase toward commercialization.”
Founded in 2016, Embark Trucks said it is focused on improving the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the approximately $730 billion-a-year U.S. highway truck freight market. The San Francisco-based company claimed that it has America’s longest-running self-driving truck program and that it partners with some of the largest shippers and carriers in the nation.
Embark announced plans to raise $614 million in a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger in June 2021. It planned to establish a nationwide network of fleet transfer points with Ryder System Inc. and a nationwide terminal network with U.S. Xpress.
More recently, the company demonstrated emergency vehicle interaction capability with the Texas Department of Public Safety and Travis County Sheriff's Office.