How Embark’s Self-Driving Truck Performed

March 1, 2018 Published by

Embark recently developed an autonomous trucking technology, and decided it would send the vehicle on a 2,000-mile cross-country trip to test its full capabilities. The journey would take the vehicle from Los Angeles, California to Jacksonville, Florida—about 2,400 miles in total. It would run the entire trip on its autopilot functionality.

There were plenty of doubters, but the trip turned out to be a success, and another feather in the cap for a company that has been one of the leaders in developing autonomous driving solutions. It also provides further ammunition to people who argue the merits of autonomous driving technology.

A follow up to previous tests

This was not the first large-scale test of Embark’s technology, but it was definitely the longest trip one of its trucks has taken so far. A previous test route for an Embark truck ran from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas—the new route covered more than four times this distance!

The most recent trip took about five days to complete. This time, however, it included a safety driver on board at all times, who needed to be ready to take over control in certain situations. The route the truck took also involved scheduled rest brakes.

Once the technology is cleared and allowed to run on its own, Embark estimates the trip will be able to be completed in a total of just two days.

Longer trips, fewer drivers

Embark doesn’t have the goal of entirely replacing human drivers, but the company does want to at least be able to make long-haul trips easier to manage and to reduce the number of drivers companies need. This would eliminate team driving needs.

The trucking industry has been dealing with a lack of qualified human drivers in recent years, especially for long-haul shipping. Drivers who would be assigned to Embark trucks would still be required to assist in certain parts of the route that do not involve freeways or driving, but in general the technology would allow for massive improvements in efficiency and significant cuts in the amount of time the trip would take.

This most recent demonstration allowed Embark the opportunity to prove what it is capable of doing and how its technology differs from some of its autonomous competitors. The company currently doesn’t use any high-resolution maps of the routes it completes—it relies fully on sensor data and technologies like onboard machine learning. As a result, it is able to cut costs and the amount of preparation time needed to establish new routes.

The route the truck took on this particular trip demonstrates the technology is capable of handling major freeways that have lots of traffic without any issue.

Autonomous driving technology is still very much in a state of evolution, and it’s nearly impossible to say how long it will be before it is adopted on a widespread basis. But advances like this recent voyage made by Embark are certainly exciting for those who are proponents of the technology.

Be sure to share this update with other self-driving vehicle enthusiasts!

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This post was written by Malcolm Rosenfeld

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