Autonomous trucking platform provider Embark Trucks Inc. will start hauling loads of office printers next week for consumer electronics giant HP Inc. using self-driving trucks, the companies said today.
HP is joining San Francisco-based Embark’s partner development program (PDP) to test the self-driving truck technology in a real-world commercial setting. The retailer will also provide data and feedback to Embark as it expands the PDP. Other companies already in the program include shippers like AB Inbev and carriers including Werner, Bison Transport, and Mesilla Valley Transportation.
In the case of HP’s printers, Embark will run its autonomous vehicles on a “middle mile” route between Phoenix, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California, covering highway miles between transfer hubs located in both cities, the firm said.
According to Embark, that pattern is a good match for HP's supply chain network, which features relatively long hauls departing from a select set of distribution and manufacturing facilities. Those types of long-distance routes can benefit greatly from the increased speed, sustainability, and operational efficiency unlocked by the 24/7 on-highway operations enabled by autonomous freight, Embark said.
All such tests on public roads are performed at “Level 2” autonomy, which means that while the trucks operate completely autonomously, they will also have a safety driver behind the wheel at all times (due in part to regulatory requirements) who can take over if and when needed, an Embark spokesperson said.
"HP is driving toward net-zero carbon emissions across our entire value chain by 2040," Jessica Kipp, HP’s global head of worldwide Logistics, said in a release. "Transportation and logistics have an important role to play, and we're excited to pilot new technologies with Embark that, when combined with electric and alternative fuel vehicles, have the potential to create a far more sustainable fleet and logistics networks than ever before."
The new route follows the steady growth of Embark’s PDP test plan, as well as previous applications like a 2017 pilot shuttling Frigidaire refrigerators between distribution centers for vehicle rental and leasing giant Ryder System Inc.
Embark’s progress comes as a growing number of autonomous truck vendors prepare to come to market, such as self-driving technology vendor TuSimple and its manufacturing partner Navistar International Corp. announcing Tuesday they will begin mass production in 2024. Likewise, autonomous truck builder Plus will team with Shanghai-based automaker FAW Jiefang Truck Co. Ltd. to start production later this year.