SAN FRANCISCO and HOUSTON — A trucking industry technology company is preparing to launch a new autonomous trucking lane between Houston and San Antonio.
Embark Trucks, Inc. has also unveiled a new autonomous trucking facility and plans to hire aggressively in the greater Houston area in 2022.
Embark announced these plans, along with a partnership with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, on Thursday.
Company officials say the partnership with Texas A&M will allow use of their state-of-the-art test track and plans to work closely with the Center for Autonomous Vehicles and Sensor Systems (CANVASS) and faculty in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering.
There, Embark will perform research and testing as it prepares for its driver-out pilot in 2023, according to a news release. The initial runs will use backup safety drivers, the company said.
“Establishing a footprint in the Houston area was both a strategic selection and natural fit for Embark,” the news release stated.
The company said that the Houston area offers them three key advantages as it scales its business:
- Houston is a trucking hub that is uniquely positioned for commercially viable long-haul autonomous freight. Houston is located at the center of key 600+ mile trucking lanes which are ideal for automation, as they cannot be completed in a single day by a human driver due to hours-of-service limitations. Hauls on such lanes can see rapid improvements in speed using autonomous freight. For example, a 600 mile run could take approximately 22 hours to complete manually assuming full compliance with the federal hours of service rules, while that same run would take just 12 hours to complete autonomously.
- The Houston area is home to leading academics and research institutions dedicated to autonomous vehicle technology, such as those at Texas A&M University. Embark expects to work closely with these partners to test, deploy, and validate its technology. Houston also has a mature trucking and autonomous vehicle workforce, representing a deep talent pool for Embark to draw from as it expands its headcount in the region.
- Texas boasts a thriving autonomous vehicle sector, due in part to the Lone Star State’s extensive public-private partnerships. By engaging with developers to support the safe operation of autonomous trucks, the Texas Departments of Transportation (TxDOT) and Public Safety (TxDPS) have established Texas as a leader well-positioned to reap the safety and efficiency benefits of the technology. Embark will continue to cultivate its relationships with state and local agencies as it prioritizes highway road safety and responsible integration of autonomous trucks into the state transportation system.
“Together, these factors enable Embark to better execute against its go-to-market timeline as it prepares for commercial launch of the Embark Driver in 2024,” the news release stated.
Embark officials said they expect to begin hauling freight for its partners between San Antonio and Houston as early as 2022.
“Texas is the center of America’s trucking industry, and it’s the perfect home for Embark’s expanded operations. We’re excited by the talent and entrepreneurial spirit that Houston has to offer,” said Stephen Houghton, chief operations and fleet officer at Embark. “Our new footprint in Texas will support our growing network of partners and fuel our rapid growth across the Sunbelt. As we scale our operations, we will continue to work closely with local and state governments and other organizations so that we improve the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of trucking with autonomous technology.”
Embark officials say their partnership with Texas A&M University is one of the cornerstones of this expansion.
“Embark will use the university’s expertise and the test track at the RELLIS Campus to pioneer novel AV capabilities and achieve its remaining technology milestones,” according to the news release.
“These milestones represent the final hurdles to deploying commercially viable autonomous trucks, and include challenges such as emergency vehicle interactions, pulling over to safety in emergency situations, and performing evasive maneuvers, among others.”
“Embark’s mission to safely, robustly, and effectively roll out commercial autonomous trucks aligns closely with TEES’ mission to turn research and development activities into useful applications and business activities,” said Dr. Srikanth Saripalli, Director of CANVASS. “We’re excited to welcome Embark to our RELLIS Campus. Our faculty and students will have the unique opportunity to apply theory to the real world by working together with Embark on engineering projects.”
Embark officials said that their expansion into Texas builds on several years of engagement with Texas state officials to share information on the development of autonomous trucks. Embark is a longstanding participant in the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Task Force, helping prepare the Texas transportation system to take advantage of the safety and efficiency benefits of the technology.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.