Autonomous Trucking: 4 Companies Making Headlines
In light of the many complexities impacting the supply chain—including a shortage of truck drivers—some industry stakeholders are pinning their hopes on autonomous trucking as a potential solution to the challenges involved.
The Silicon Review summed it up like this: “Advocates anticipate decreased traffic, more efficient driving with lower emissions, improved job opportunities for drivers who transport to these trucks and decreased accidents as among the benefits the switch to autonomous trucking will bring.”
Several companies that offer self-driving technologies that are either specific to trucking or can be applied to the freight industry have been making headlines recently related to new partnerships and implementation progress. The following provides a snapshot of recent developments from four that have been in the news lately: Aurora, Embark, TuSimple, and Waymo.
Here are a few snippets from Aurora’s website that help to describe its offering:
“We’re building the next-generation of self-driving with powerful, independent, and robust technology—the Aurora Driver—at its core. Through an ecosystem of partners across the transportation industry, we’ll deliver the benefits of self-driving technology broadly.”
“Through our Driver as a Service model and strategic partnerships, we can rapidly scale across trucking, ride-hailing, and local goods delivery.”
“We partner with an ecosystem of logistics providers, ridesharing networks, vehicle manufacturers, and fleet management companies. Together, we are accelerating the commercialization of self-driving technology to strengthen their businesses and make the movement of goods and people safer and more efficient.”
Aurora Driver-powered trucks
Aurora Beacon, a suite of Mission Control and Fleet Management tools that manage and integrate Aurora Driver-powered trucks with network operations
Aurora Shield, the physical services needed to maximize the uptime of the fleet”
The company recently went public, as highlighted in the following video.
To give you a sense of the company’s progress in autonomous trucking, here are a few recent Aurora headlines:
December 15th: Aurora and Uber Freight launch commercial pilot
October 28th: Aurora Horizon is Taking the Wheel in Texas
According to Embark’s website, the company “is making the $700 billion a year trucking industry safer, more sustainable, and more efficient with self-driving software that can power any fleet.”
Embark describes itself as “Tailor-made for trucking”: “Since day one, we’ve had a disciplined focus on trucks. The result is self-driving software that’s designed from the ground-up for long-haul trucking.”
Additionally, it says its technology “is designed to be compatible across the major truck OEM platforms. Carriers can run Embark’s software to supercharge their business without switching OEMs.”
Embark says that an important part of its offering is a network of transfer points across the nation: “Transfer points are where local drivers bring freight from a nearby facility and transfer it to an Embark-enabled truck. The freight can then be driven thousands of miles — completely autonomously — before being delivered to another transfer point near the freight’s final destination. …Our Transfer Point model creates short-haul jobs for human drivers, which means they stay closer to home.”
Here are a few recent headlines involving Embark:
TuSimple says it develops “the world’s most advanced self-driving technologies specifically designed to meet the unique demands of heavy-duty trucks. Through the development of an industry leading autonomous driving system, purpose-built autonomous trucks with OEMs Navistar and TRATON, and the creation of the TuSimple Autonomous Freight Network (AFN) we have become the partner of choice for shippers, and carriers.”
The company also describes how it is “redefining” long-haul trucking with its AFN: “We’re redefining the way freight moves from A to B by offering game-changing autonomous capacity operating on the world’s first autonomous freight network. The TuSimple AFN delivers powerful advantages to both shippers and carriers and addresses many of the challenges facing supply chain logistics today.”
TuSimple’s AFN is described as “an expanding transportation network allowing freight to be moved from point to point safely and reliably using autonomous trucks. By becoming an AFN partner, shippers and carriers will be at the forefront of autonomous long-haul logistics and receive game-changing advantages to their logistics operations.”
On December 29th, the company reached a significant milestone: “TuSimple Becomes First to Successfully Operate Driver Out, Fully Autonomous Semi-truck on Open Public Roads.”
The following video clip provides a brief look at the achievement.
Recent news from TuSimple includes:
Waymo started in 2009 as Google’s self-driving car project and has evolved over the years. In 2016, under Alphabet, Waymo was established as “an autonomous driving technology company” and has achieved various milestones since then. In 2020 it introduced Waymo Via “as our business unit dedicated to moving goods, and expanded our testing into New Mexico and Texas. We conducted trucking and delivery pilot programs, exploring how logistics partners could move goods more safely and efficiently with the Waymo Driver.”
Referencing its autonomous driving expertise gained by honing the Waymo Driver over the years, Waymo says it applied that expertise to Waymo Via to “tackle the unique challenge of truck driving.”
Here are some of Waymo’s recent headlines related to autonomous trucking:
December 21st: What we learned from our initial trial runs with J.B. Hunt
A Solution for the Truck Driver Shortage?
With the rapid progress being made in the autonomous trucking space, some are wondering whether it could be a solution for the truck driver shortage in the U.S.
In the following video published in early November, WSJ’s George Downs explores the potential: “While a lot of the attention around autonomous driving is focused on robotaxis, driverless trucks may actually have an easier and quicker route to market, and could present a solution to a driver shortage in the U.S.. So could they be the answer the industry is looking for? To find out, I spoke to Aurora and Embark as the companies were making their stock market debut.”