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Self-driving trucks are ready to Embark on routes across the Southwest because of a pilot program developed by Embark Technology, a self-driving truck company, that will roll out to Knight-Swift. This rollout marks the first time a trucking company will own and operate autonomous trucks as part of its fleet. The venture could prove to be a huge success, or it might be doomed to failure, but it is the next step forward for self-driving semi-trucks.

A small number of trucks will include self-driving technology

Embark employee working on CPU for self-driving trucks
Embark Employee Working on CPU | Embark

Even though Knight-Swift is one of the largest freight companies in the United States, only a small number of trucks will have the Embark technology. These heavy-duty commercial trucks will carry heavy loads and include a human driver that can take over as needed during the route.

According to Reuters, this limited-scale rollout allows other trucking companies to study the performance of this program. When a truck belongs to a company, such as Knight-Swift, they operate it completely which means handling the duty cycle, maintenance, and truck dispatching.

Driver training at a new level

Embark is working closely with Knight-Swift through a training program. This program allows drivers to supervise the self-driving technology of these trucks. These human drivers will be ready to intervene if necessary. Mostly they will provide the feedback necessary for improvement to the company during this early testing phase. These autonomous trucks will drive routes in the Sunbelt area of Texas and Arizona. These two states offer an excellent proving ground thanks to the warm weather, long, uncongested roadways, and friendly regulation.

What is the long-term goal for Embark?

Semi Straddling the Yellow Line
Semi Straddling the Yellow Line | Shutterstock

Along with other companies developing autonomous technology, Embark intends to provide carriers with trucks equipped with self-driving software. These trucks will incur a per-mile usage fee for that technology, which is how Embark will benefit from these programs. Other companies currently developing autonomous software include TuSimple, Aurora Innovation Inc., and Google’s Waymo.

Confidence from the trucking industry

The pilot program between Embark and Knight-Swift isn’t a flash-in-the-pan, short-term program. Confidence in the software developed is high, with 14,200 reservations for this system already in place. According to Forbes, these reservations aren’t binding they indicate confidence from the trucking industry for the system launching in 2024 indicates the pilot program with Knight-Swift is only the first of its kind.

Embark isn’t new to self-driving trucks

Blue Embark self-driving truck posed
Embark Self-Driving Truck | Embark

This company was founded in 2016 and is the first to test self-driving trucks on public roads. A per-mile software program is how Embark sets itself apart from the competition with. Reservations have the needs of individual fleet operators in mind. Embark has mapped and studied billions of miles and millions of routes to determine the benefits of their software to fleet operators.

100 miles makes all the difference

Semi-Trucks in Traffic
Semi-Trucks in Traffic | Shutterstock

An example of studies performed by Embark compares a 600-mile route and a 500-mile trip into consideration. The results show there’s no benefit to the trucking company to using autonomous software during a 500-mile route because it can be finished within the 10-hour limit given to human drivers by the Department of Transportation.

Conversely, the 600-mile route using the software creates incredible savings for the fleet operators because this route typically requires 22 hours to complete. After eleven hours of driving, DOT requires human drivers to take a ten-hour break but the use of self-driving software can reduce the number of hours the human driver has behind the wheel.

Are we ready for self-driving semi-trucks?

Can you imagine a semi-truck on the road next to you without a human operator in the driver’s seat? This is a horrifying thought for some. The Embark self-driving software, if successfully tested, will bring us to this reality.

Next, check out the new Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2, or watch as Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters take a ride in an Embark self-driving semi-truck in the video below:

This article was updated on 8/21/2022.


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