21 year old Canadian launches self-driving truck company to take on Otto
Embark, a new self-driving truck startup that launched on Friday, is the brainchild of 21 year old University of Waterloo students Alex Rodrigues and Brandon Moak. The Canadian duo has been working on a self-driving truck since last summer, and in January received the necessary paperwork to test the rig on Nevada public highways. The truck so far has logged 10,000 miles. The main player in this space, Uber-owned Otto, has laid out a vision that would find drivers resting comfortably in their cab bunks while the truck does the exit-to-exit highway driving. The truck’s radar, laser-radar, cameras and algorithm-fed computers manage the job of highly sophisticated, cruise-control highway driving.
Embark also is aiming for an exit-to-exit solution, but it wants the trucks to run completely without humans until they are met by drivers at exit-point meet-up points.
“We want to focus on trucking as opposed to cars because we think this is an area with an acute problem to solve, namely a shortage of long-haul drivers,” says Rodrigues. “No one really wants to be away from home for long periods of time, and there’s a 10x turnover rate for those drivers compared to people who work locally.”
He adds that “the better paying jobs are also the local jobs, so the idea is the drivers would be in a staging area just on the freeway and take care of bringing the goods to their final destination.”
The exact amount of Embark’s seed round is private, but investors include Maven Ventures and SV Angels. Although the team numbers only 10 so far, including veterans of SpaceX and Audi, Rodrigues isn’t worried about competition from Otto.
“There’s a long way to go still, and I don’t think it’s the kind of race where the first person to develop the best tech wins,” he says. “It will likely come down to having the best partnerships and working with regulators.”