Autonomous truck tech startup Embark Trucks on Thursday announced its expansion into Texas and the launch of a new autonomous trucking lane between Houston and San Antonio.
To support the expansion, Embark announced a partnership with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station to utilize their state-of-the-art test track, and plans to work closely with the Center for Autonomous Vehicles and Sensor Systems (CANVASS) and faculty in the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University to perform research and testing as it prepares for its driver-out pilot in 2023.
“Texas is the center of America's trucking industry, and it’s the perfect home for Embark’s expanded operations. We’re excited by the talent and entrepreneurial spirit that Houston has to offer,” said Stephen Houghton, Embark chief operations and fleet officer. “Our new footprint in Texas will support our growing network of partners and fuel our rapid growth across the Sunbelt. As we scale our operations, we will continue to work closely with local and state governments and other organizations so that we improve the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of trucking with autonomous technology.”
Embark also unveiled its new autonomous trucking facility and plans to hire aggressively in the greater Houston area in 2022.
Embark noted the Houston area offers the three key advantages as it works to scale its business.
Well-positioned trucking hub
Houston is a trucking hub that is uniquely positioned for commercially viable long-haul autonomous freight. Houston is located at the center of key 600-plus mile trucking lanes which are ideal for automation, as they cannot be completed in a single day by a human driver due to hours-of-service limitations. For example, a 600 mile run could take approximately 22 hours to complete manually, assuming full compliance with the federal hours of service rules, while that same run would take just 12 hours to complete autonomously.
The Houston area is home to academics and research institutions dedicated to autonomous vehicle technology, such as those at Texas A&M University. Embark expects to work closely with these partners to test, deploy and validate its technology. Houston also has a mature trucking and autonomous vehicle workforce, representing a deep talent pool for Embark to draw from as it expands its headcount in the region.
Embark’s partnership with Texas A&M University is one of the cornerstones of expansion, as the company will use the university’s expertise and test track at the RELLIS Campus to pioneer novel AV capabilities and achieve its remaining technology milestones. These milestones represent the final hurdles to deploying commercially viable autonomous trucks, and include challenges such as emergency vehicle interactions, pulling over to safety in emergency situations, and performing evasive maneuvers, among others.
Public sector engagement
Texas has forged extensive public-private autonomous partnerships. By engaging with developers to support the safe operation of autonomous trucks, the Texas Departments of Transportation (TxDOT) and Public Safety (TxDPS) have established Texas as a leader well-positioned to reap the safety and efficiency benefits of the technology. Embark will continue to cultivate its relationships with state and local agencies as it prioritizes highway road safety and responsible integration of autonomous trucks into the state transportation system.
Together, these factors enable Embark to execute against its go-to-market timeline as it prepares for commercial launch of the Embark Driver in 2024. Embark expects to begin hauling freight for its partners between San Antonio and Houston as early as 2022.
Embark’s expansion into Texas builds on several years of engagement with Texas state officials to share information on the development of autonomous trucks. Embark is a longstanding participant in the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Task Force, helping prepare the Texas transportation system to take advantage of the safety and efficiency benefits of the technology.