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Embark Partnering with Texas For Autonomous Truck Interactions with Police

by Charles Choi
Embark Trucks is partnering with Texas to help the company’s self-driving vehicles better interact with law enforcement. Courtesy: Embark Trucks.

Autonomous vehicle startup Embark Trucks is partnering with Texas to help the company’s self-driving vehicles identify, stop for and interface with law enforcement vehicles, Embark announced June 1.

Since its founding in 2016, San Francisco-based Embark has run the longest-running self-driving truck program in the United States, partnering with major companies such as Ryder, HP and DHL. In the past year, Embark has expanded its operations in Texas, opening a new autonomous trucking hub in the Houston area and launching a driverless trucking lane between Houston and San Antonio 

Now Embark has announced it is working with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to train Embark-powered trucks to identify law enforcement vehicles in situations such as traffic stops, and to develop communication protocols and standard operating procedures between autonomous trucks and law enforcement officers.

Embark noted that interaction with emergency vehicles is the next feature it has targeted in its technical capabilities roadmap, which details 16 of Embark’s technological goals as it seeks to deploy autonomous technology in the U.S. Sunbelt, the region stretching across the southeastern and southwestern United States. The company noted it has achieved 11 of these milestones.

“Our technical roadmap represents a measurable path to commercialization of autonomous trucks, and making sure law enforcement can safely and intuitively interact with autonomous trucks is a ‘must’ for deployment,” Emily Warren, head of public policy at Embark, said in a statement. “Our work with Texas DPS prioritizes safety as we achieve this key technical milestone, and enables us to create a scalable emergency vehicle interaction model that can work across Texas and the U.S. Sunbelt.”

Embark noted there were two key components of this milestone. First, the startup is training Embark-powered trucks to identify emergency vehicle lights and other cues to slow down and pull over safely onto highway shoulders in accordance with law enforcement requests. Second, the company is developing a protocol for each truck’s interactions with input from law enforcement that can enable any law enforcement officer to safely stop, approach, and receive information from an autonomous truck intuitively and without any additional equipment. This may include outfitting Embark trucks with clear visual cues and information to signal to law enforcement personnel that an Embark-powered truck is an autonomous vehicle and has come to a safe stop with no risk of restarting unexpectedly. 

In addition, Embark plans to outfit trucks with a lockbox accessible to law enforcement containing vehicle and load information such as registration and bills of lading, as well as contact information. This way, law enforcement officers can reach an Embark operator to verify documentation.

Embark plans to publicly demonstrate its emergency vehicle interaction capability later this summer.

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