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Yet another autonomous truck start-up has emerged in a bid to bring self-driving line-haul trucks on the road.
Californian company, Embark, unveiled a prototype vehicle on Friday that is operated by a form of Artificial Intelligence that can be retrofitted to an existing truck.
According to Embark, the company’s approach to self-driving technology is based on a combination of radars, cameras and lidar (light detection and ranging) depth sensors to perceive the world around it.
The data points captured are processed via a form of Artificial Intelligence known as Deep Neural Nets (DNNs) that “allow the truck to learn from its own experience – much like humans learn from practice.”
However – much like other autonomous truck designs such as the Freightliner Inspiration truck or the Otto – Embark's autonomous contestant is meant to be handed off to a human driver once it heads off the highway, who will then navigate local streets to the destination.
“A human driver will still touch every load, but with Embark they’re able to move more loads per day, handing off hundreds of miles of freeway driving to their robot partners,” the company explained.
According to Alex Rodrigues, CEO and co-founder of Embark, the company’s truck is built specifically for “long, simple stretches of freeway driving between cities”, rather than all aspects of driving, even though the computer technology behind it is inherently complex.
“Analysing terabyte upon terabyte of real-world data, Embark’s DNNs have learned how to see through glare, fog and darkness on their own,” Rodrigues said.
“We’ve programmed them with a set of rules to help safely navigate most situations, how to safely learn from the unexpected, and how to apply that experience to new situations going forward.”
Another American truck startup, Starsky Robotics, has also revealed its version of the self-driving truck system. The San Francisco-based company, founded by Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, equips trucks with a system that uses computers, radar and software to drive without a human at the controls on highways and then via remote-controlled on-board robots on local roads. Both Starsky and Embark are aiming the technology towards alleviating the US' worsening truck driver shortage and improve road safety by making trucker life more appealing and manageable.
“If drivers got to go home every night, it’d be a lot easier to hire drivers — it would fundamentally solve the labor shortage,” Seltz-Axmacher told Trucks.com. “Any technology that doesn’t remove the person from the truck doesn’t solve the problem.”
Videos of both self-driving truck companies can be viewed below:
Photo copyright: Embark