San Francisco-based Embark Trucks has completed a semi-autonomous drive from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. An earlier test route for the company's Level 2 autonomous trucks ran from L.A. to El Paso, and this 2,400-mile cross-country trip is significantly longer.
The trucks haven't just been delivering air, as the cargo for the 650-mile drive was Frigidaire fridges. Embark says it will never plan to completely replace truck drivers; Wired quotes the American Trucking Association as saying there is currently a shortage of 50,000 drivers, and that in six years that number could rise to 175,000. There is still a need for the driver to do last-mile driving and other handling, but like other autonomous truck ventures, automation can take care of the long, straight drives. For now, a driver must still be able to take over immediately when a demanding situation arises, so the California-Florida test drive included scheduled breaks for the test driver.
It took five days for Embark to complete the journey, but computers don't need rest breaks, so when the technology is proven, expect that to down to two days in the future — and these things are far from Cannonball Runners, as the robotruck will always stick to the speed limit and pretty much always to the right lane.
According to TechCrunch, Embark's setup doesn't rely merely on maps, but sensor data and machine learning, making it quicker for the system to devise new routes. In four months, Embark's test fleet has grown from two to five trucks, and plans include a whole 40 test trucks by the end of this year.
Semi-autonomous semi truck delivers fridges 2,400 miles cross-country originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 07 Feb 2018 16:27:00 EST.