Embark self-driving trucks received an infusion of $30 million in Series B funding. The round, led by Sequoia Capital, raises the total funding to $47 million since the Embark self-driving trucks debuted in 2016.
The funding will help increase the fleet from five to 100 Embark self-driving trucks and help purchase the cameras, LiDAR and radar systems that are needed. Sequoia partner Pat Grady has joined Embark’s board. Existing investors including Data Collective, YCombinator, SV Angel and AME Cloud also participated in the round.
Embark self-driving trucks are considered Level 2 automation, meaning a human driver must actively monitor the truck at all times. CEO Alex Rodrigues has said the plan is to develop Embark self-driving trucks to Level 4 automation so the trucks can travel on limited, specific highway routes with no human driver. These Level 4 trucks would operate as part of a freight system, in which trailers are exchanged between local drivers and driverless trucks at freight hubs.
The self-driving truck industry is quickly becoming crowded. A number of companies are developing and testing self-driving trucks, including Starsky Robotics, TuSimple, Uber, Waymo and Anthony Levandowski’s new company Kache.ai. Trucking is a $700 billion industry in the US, touching every corner of the economy. More than 3.5 million Americans are truck drivers.
Embark self-driving trucks running daily
Embark also just opened an operations center in Ontario, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. In a blog on Medium announcing the new funding, Rodrigues says this puts Embark self-driving trucks “right in the middle of the west coast’s biggest freight hub.”
Embark self-driving trucks are running daily service on a freight route from LA to Phoenix and back. “As of June, our system can complete the route end-to-end with no disengagements. This includes lane changes, merges, on-ramps, off-ramps and lots of LA-metro traffic.”
In February 2018, Embark completed a five-day, 2,400-mile drive from LA to Jacksonville, Fla. There was a human safety driver inside the truck for the entire trip, but the vast majority of the driving was autonomous, with hours at a time with no disengagements.
Rodrigues said Embark joins Cruise, Uber and Waymo as the only self-driving companies with more than 100,000 public test miles.