Embark, a San Francisco start-up just demonstrated what it could be capable of in a big way.It drove from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida, in a test drive, covering around 2,400 miles without relying on a human driver on the freeway.The all journey took five days, making regular stops to allow the safety driver rest breaks.
Since early October, autonomous trucks operated by Embark have been carrying Frigidaire refrigerators 650 miles along I-10 freeway, from a warehouse in El Paso, Texas, to a distribution center in Palm Springs, California.
Embark doesn’t manufacture its own vehicles, but instead created a self-driving system that was integrated into 5 Peterbilt trucks, and possibly other vehicles. Embark plans to acquire 40 more semis within the year for further testing and long-haul deliveries.
Unlike other tech ventures working on self-driving vehicles,including Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise, Embark uses machine learning software and data from the sensors on-board its trucks to map its surroundings in real-time and avoid obstacles. Others “pre-map” their routes, and use data from the sensors on-board to augment their maps.
The “sensor suite” in an Embark truck is comprised of five cameras, three long-range radars and at least two lidars (light detection and ranging sensors).
In its test drive, the Embark truck (dubbed “Big Blue“) operated with professional safety drivers inside, ready to take over the wheel if needed. In the long-term, the start-up aims to produce autonomous trucks that can drive themselves on freeways, but would require a human to get on and off the exits, and to navigate around cities or small towns.
This concept would make it possible for truckers to keep their jobs but cover long routes and make more deliveries in less time.
Do you think self-driving trucks, with a momentum of 25 Honda Accords, would replace Nigerian truck drivers in the face of confusing road hazards, poor surface conditions, and unpredictable car drivers?