SAN FRANCISCO — Embark Trucks Inc. today announced that it has raised $70 million in Series C funding. The company said it plans to use the investment to expand its staff, grow its fleet of trucks, and open transfer hubs in Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Tiger Global Management LLC led the Series C round, with participation from Sequoia, DCVC, Y Combinator, SV Angel, Maven Ventures, OMERS Ventures, and Mubadala Ventures. Sequoia Capital led Embark Trucks’ Series B of $30 million last year.
There are approximately 2 million truck drivers in the U.S. today, but there is a shortfall of 60,000 drivers, largely due to low unemployment and a preference among younger workers to stay close to home, stated Embark Trucks. The company claimed that the trucking industry is worth close to $800 billion in the U.S. alone, more than the entire global software industry.
As a result, several companies are developing driverless trucks. They include Ike, which raised a $52 million Series A in February; Starsky Robotics, whose Series A in February was $16.5 million; Torc Robotics, now majority-owned by Daimler and testing in Virginia; Kodiak Robotics in Texas; and TuSimple, which last month got funding from UPS.
As part of its work on driverless safety, Embark Trucks in January released its first report of “disengagements,” or the number of times a safety driver had to take over during Level 2 autonomous operation. Self-driving car companies made a similar report in California in February.
Embark Trucks builds hubs for local handoff
Although Embark is developing autonomous tractor-trailers, its CEO acknowledged the role of humans in logistics.
“One of our greatest learnings from spending time with customers over the last two years is that the transition to self-driving trucks involves a lot more than getting a truck to drive safely on its own,” wrote Alex Rodrigues. “Our customers rely on truck drivers to navigate their yards, load freight, and process paperwork — distribution centers aren’t going to change these practices anytime soon.”
The hubs are intended to be points for Embark technicians to inspect trailers and for its customers’ local drivers to take over in bringing loads into more “challenging driving conditions in urban areas.” Five Fortune 500 companies have agreed to use Embark’s network between Los Angeles and Phoenix this autumn.
Embark hopes to gain experience and data about docking, loading, and inspections from the two transport hubs as it works on deploying Level 4 self-driving trucks, Rodrigues said.
In the past 12 months, Embark’s employees have doubled in number to 70, and it is hiring. In June, the company hired Zeljko Popovic, who led the Autopilot perception team at Tesla, to be its perception lead.
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