Autonomous truck collective announces latest members

Three new companies have joined the Self Driving Coalition.

The autonomous automotive group formed in 2016 has welcomed its newest members Embark, Kodiak and TuSimple into the fold.

These are the first businesses to exclusively work with self-driving trucks in the group and join founding members Ford, Lyft, Volvo Cars and Waymo alongside Argo AI, Aurora, Cruise, Motional, Nuro and Uber.

Consistent driver shortages, rising freight costs and recent increases in traffic fatalities across North America have been pointed to justify greater investments in autonomous technology solutions to combat driver error and fatigue through sophisticated cameras and sensors.

“Autonomous vehicle technology,” per the coalition’s vision statement, “holds the potential to improve safety, enhance mobility, and transform how goods and passengers move.

TuSimple, perhaps the most recognisable of the three new members, came to prominence last year by having raised over $US300 million. At present the San Diego-based company, who has signed a deal with Navistar to automate the International LT Series, operates 40 test trucks in the American Southwest.

In November TuSimple announced a strategic relationship with Goodyear who would provide tyres and tyre management solutions to TuSimple’s Autonomous Freight Network.

More recently it sought an additional $US250 million in Series E funding or down funding to help facilitate an IPO.

“We’re proud to join the Self Driving Coalition and to advance autonomous driving technologies which will help make roads safer and more efficient for everyone,” said Jim Mullen, TuSimple Chief Administrative and Legal Officer.

“Our working relationship with the DOT, state and local officials has been very productive, and we look forward to joining efforts to collectively bolster the AV industry’s efforts to collaborate with government officials to bring this transformational technology to market safely and reliably,” he said.

Embark’s 25-year-old CEO Alex Rodrigues came up with the idea for the company he co-founded when his car’s tyre blew out on the highway.

As he waited several hours for a repair truck, he saw many of the 18-wheelers rolling by had signs pleading: ‘Drivers Wanted.’

“The American Transportation Research Institute estimates there is currently a shortage of 100,000 truck drivers in the industry, which is poised to only get worse as baby boomer drivers — the bulk of the industry’s workforce — retire over the next decade,” Rodrigues said in 2017 when Embark’s first Peterbilt began testing in Nevada.

“Embark’s goal is to increase productivity per driver and prevent the shortage from becoming a crisis.”

Four years later, Embark has raised at least $117 million and has 13 self-driving semis.

“The safety and efficiency benefits of self-driving technology are especially pronounced in freight trucking,” said Rodrigues. “Embark has been working closely with federal and state officials to realize these benefits since our founding in 2016. We are excited to add our voice and trucking perspective to the Self-Driving Coalition and ensure businesses and consumers who rely on freight trucking can benefit from self-driving technology.”

Ariel Wolf, Counsel to the Coalition said it was excited to welcome Embark, Kodiak and TuSimple.

“By adding their voices to our work with federal, state and local policymakers, the Coalition enhances our commitment to make self-driving technology’s transformative potential a reality on America’s roads and highways,” he said.