Autonomous vehicle startup Embark Trucks and trucking company U.S. Xpress are partnering to grow Embark’s network of driverless trucking stations, the companies announced May 6.
Headquartered in San Francisco since its founding in 2016, Embark is America’s longest-running self-driving truck program. Embark aims to establish a network of strategically located transfer points, where freight is moved from driverless long-haul trucks to driver-enabled trucks for first- and last-mile delivery.
Since Embark developed its transfer point model in 2019, it has conducted hundreds of hauls through these sites. It has also partnered with a number of companies to develop this network, including Ryder and industrial real estate firm Alterra.
Now U.S. Xpress plans to adds its nationwide terminal network to Embark’s transfer point network. The companies will first identify priority U.S. Xpress terminals based on traffic patterns, customer needs, and technical requirements, starting with two terminals in Sunbelt states, creating a clear path to opening a high-volume lane for autonomous hauling.
“Through our partnership with U.S. Xpress, we have identified a unique opportunity to leverage U.S. Xpress’ existing truck terminals, unlocking a more seamless scaling process,” Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark, said in a statement. “By utilizing existing truck terminals for transfer operations, Embark autonomous trucks will be able to more easily integrate with existing U.S. Xpress network assets such as last-mile driver capacity, parking, and maintenance services.”
The companies plan to co-develop an onsite operations playbook that captures standard processes for when autonomous trucks enter U.S. Xpress properties. Expected solutions will include gate access, onsite vehicle movement, trailer swap procedures, inspections, data and power management and more. By developing these procedures now, U.S. Xpress aims to quickly integrate Embark-powered autonomous trucks as a complement to professional truck drivers within its operations.
This latest move from U.S. Xpress follows its announcement in April of a partnership with autonomous vehicle startup Kodiak Robotics to start the first commercial autonomous trucking lane to the East Coast, from Dallas-Fort Worth to Atlanta.
“This partnership is further evidence of our intention to be an early adopter of autonomous vehicle technology,” Eric Fuller, President & CEO of U.S. Xpress, said in a statement. “Through this partnership with Embark, we’re taking the next important step in planning and preparing our terminal network to support executing our autonomous strategy.”