Amazon is using self-driving trucks industrialized by Embark to haul cargo on the I-10 interstate highway. The trucks were formerly noticed by a Reddit user, who snapped and shared images this week showing tractors inscribed with the Embark logo and trailers painted with the Amazon Prime logo. Rather than developing its own trucks, Embark integrates its self-driving systems into current semis, and only designs the system to work on highways, unlike competitors such as Telsa who hope their electric semi will drive on all roads.
Embark and other firms working on autonomous systems — including fellow start-ups such as Ike, Thor Trucks and Pronto.ai, and major players such as Alphabet’s Waymo and Tesla — aim to improve industry pains by making existing truck drivers safer and more effective. A driver shortage at present plagues the trucking industry, owing in part to the low pay and tough schedules and conditions of the job. A dearth of available drivers and trucks poses a challenge to e-commerce companies, clearly including Amazon, whose customers expect deliveries in a comparatively short time. ‘More than 50% of all drivers will retire in the next two decades and there aren’t closely enough young drivers joining the industry to replace them.
Embark CEO Alex Rodrigues said, “Embark moves freight for a number of key companies on the I-10, however we cannot discuss any company precisely as our relationships are confidential.” ‘By allowing automation to work together with local drivers to handle less desirable long haul routes, we will be able to surge productivity to address the current 50,000 driver unavailability while also creating new local driving jobs that draw younger drivers for the industry.’ An Amazon spokesperson said, “We are always innovating and working with innovative companies to improve the customer experience and safety of our team. We think successful over-the-road autonomy will create safer roadways and a better work environment for drivers on long-haul runs. “Founded in 2016, Embark has raised at least $47 million in venture funding from firms including Sequoia Capital, Data Collective, Y Combinator and AME Cloud Ventures.
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