Asset-Light Autonomous Trucking

Sam Abidi, Chief Commercial Officer, Embark Trucks joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Embark’s asset-light approach to autonomous trucking.

The conversation begins with Sam discussing how Embark as a pre-revenue company is approaching commercialization.

We expect to scale operations by way of our carriers who will haul goods for the shippers that we work with, and we expect to work with Tier 1’s and OEMs to deliver that.

– Sam Abidi

To deliver on this model, Embark has a partnership with Knight-Swift where Knight-Swift will own and operate the autonomous trucks running Embark’s Universal Interface.

We set out on a rather large effort to develop a standardized set of sensors and compute with flexible mounts and communication interfaces, so that our AV system could go from one OEM to another.

– Sam Abidi

Each truck running the Embark Universal Interface will have a very similar user interface and experience across multiple OEMs which makes the system scalable. Embark’s system will allow carriers to add more capacity due to hours of service regulations which increases the amount of time it takes for a load to reach its final destination.

With the U.S. inflation rate currently at 8.3%, a 40-year high and a driver shortage which is only growing, Grayson and Sam discuss why autonomous trucking is not being embraced as a tool to help reduce inflation by stabilizing the supply chain.

It’s a complicated story, you got to have a second order understanding of how supply chains work, you got to understand hours of service, you got to understand relay networks and hub networks, to really recognize how autonomy unlocks e-commerce and two-day delivery, and everyone’s desire for cheap goods.

– Sam Abidi

When autonomous trucking is fully embraced by regulators, politicians and the public, the U.S. economy will benefit from job creation and lower inflation. For autonomous trucking to truly scale, partnerships are key.

Embark has a partnership with Alterra for autonomous trucking terminals. At those depots, Ryder will be providing on-site services that are required to properly operate an autonomous trucking operation. From an infrastructure standpoint there are minor upgrades that have to be made to begin autonomous trucking operations, which will allow Embark to scale their terminal networks with partners.

With the average price of diesel in the U.S. being $5.52 a gallon, Embark is beginning to look at alternative forms of fuel.

We look forward to a platform that can run on electric or hydrogen for the distances that make sense for autonomy.

– Sam Abidi

Wrapping up the conversation, Sam shares his thoughts on the current state of the autonomous trucking industry.

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Recorded on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.