Freight transportation provider Knight-Swift will start to integrate autonomous driving technology from Embark Trucks into its daily operations in January, following the initial transfer of an Embark-powered truck to the company this week, the companies said.
The move is part of the companies’ Truck Transfer Program (TTP), the first public initiative in which a carrier will directly own and operate a truck with select features of Embark’s automated driving software. Embark and Knight-Swift launched the TTP earlier this year, calling it the next step forward in putting autonomous trucks on the road. The partnership puts Embark’s technology directly in the hands of Knight-Swift drivers, allowing the carrier to collect data about system safety and operational performance, the companies said.
Until now, Embark and other autonomous driving developers have tested their technology on prototype trucks that they own and maintain, placing their own drivers behind the wheel during hauls for shippers and carrier partners. This week’s transfer means that Knight-Swift’s drivers, mechanics, and technicians can work directly with Embark’s technology in the field.
Embark will complete the handover of the vehicle by the end of the year, and Knight-Swift will begin hauling loads for large shippers on the Los Angeles to Phoenix lane in January, according to a spokesperson for Embark Trucks.
Embark and Knight-Swift have been jointly working on projects to prepare for the handoff. They include: developing maintenance procedures for AV systems; pre- and post-trip inspections; training and certifying Knight-Swift drivers; and escalation policies for maintenance issues. Embark is also training Knight-Swift technicians on how to service and interact with the trucks, the companies said.
While on the road, Embark-powered trucks will be monitored and supported by Embark Guardian, a combination of cloud-based fleet management software and personnel, which together will monitor the health of the system while enhancing safety on the road.
“I am excited to take delivery, so our drivers and customers can provide direct feedback on the technology as we use it in day-to-day operations to enable new safety and efficiency in trucking,” Knight-Swift CEO Dave Jackson said in a press release detailing the program.
“Handing over the first Embark-powered truck to the Knight-Swift team tops off a year in which Embark has made critical strides to close the gap between testing our autonomous technology and scaling it across customer fleets,” Embark CEO Alex Rodrigues said in the same press statement. “The Truck Transfer Program will be a model for the industry as we move from the R&D and pilot phase toward commercialization.”