“We’re able to move really fast,” Embark cofounder and CEO Alex Rodrigues told Forbes aboard the cab of a sensor-laden Peterbilt semi as it barreled down the I-10 on a sunny morning, hauling a commercial load from Ontario, California, to Phoenix. (As required by law a safety driver’s hands are on the wheel, but the big rig is driving itself down the busy highway.)
“Waymo may have the ‘conglomerate advantage’ of build once, use many times,” he said. The Alphabet Inc. unit’s robot truck program utilizes the same tech that’s in its self-driving minivans, and it’s looking to deploy it elsewhere. “We think in this period of time where the goal is to deliver a working product, and all we’re trying to do is deliver a single vehicle to market first, we have a huge advantage because we’re able to move in such a focused way.”
Silicon Valley VC firm Sequoia Capital agrees and just led a $30m Series B round for the San Francisco-based company, boosting total funding to $47m for Embark two years after it was founded by Rodrigues and Brandon Moak, its CTO. The funds will help Embark’s fleet expand to 100 trucks from five, load them up with Velodyne lidar sensors, cameras, radar and computing system and compete for software talent.
Early this year the company completed the first coast-to-coast test run by a self-driving truck, traveling from suburban Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. Embark’s autonomous Peterbilts are also generating revenue hauling loads daily between Ontario and Phoenix for shippers including appliance giant Electrolux.