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Startup Embark unveils self-driving truck

Embark, a startup developing self-driving technologies for commercial transportation, unveiled its self-driving truck technology. The company—which gained approval by the State of Nevada earlier this year to begin testing its truck on public roads—has created a technology that allows trucks to drive from exit to exit on the freeway without any human input.

Embark’s truck uses a combination of radars, cameras and LiDARs to perceive the world around it. The millions of data points from these sensors are processed using a form of Artificial Intelligence known as Deep Neural Nets (or DNNs) that allow the truck to learn from its own experience.

Analyzing terabyte upon terabyte of real-world data, Embark’s DNNs have learned how to see through glare, fog and darkness on their own. We’ve programmed them with a set of rules to help safely navigate most situations, how to safely learn from the unexpected, and how to apply that experience to new situations going forward.

—Alex Rodrigues, CEO and Co-founder of Embark

Embark’s truck is built specifically to handle long, simple stretches of freeway driving between cities, rather than all aspects of driving. At the city limit, Embark's computerized truck hands off to a human driver who navigates the city streets to the destination. A human driver will still touch every load, but with Embark they’re able to move more loads per day, handing off hundreds of miles of freeway driving to their robot partners.

Rodrigues has a long history with robotics. He built his first autonomous robot at 13 years old and has been pushing the boundaries ever since. His robots have won international competitions and one of his autonomous shuttles transported more than 1,000 passengers in demonstrations across California.

Rodrigues started Embark by recruiting talent from technology leaders including SpaceX, StanfordAI, and Audi’s self-driving team. The team is backed by a multi-million dollar investment led by Maven Ventures. Maven’s previous investment in self-driving technology, Cruise Automation, sold to GM for $1B last year. Embark plans to quadruple its engineering team within the next year and aggressively expand its testing fleet to show their technology is ready for the nation’s highways.

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