HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) will begin shipping computer printers from Los Angeles to Phoenix on supervised autonomous semis from Embark Trucks. HP is the newest addition to a network of Embark is growing to better understand shipper needs.
In the beginning, HP will move just one truck a week, “with additional opportunities to expand as additional lanes and opportunities are identified,” Jessica Kipp, HP’s global head of logistics, told FreightWaves. “We look forward to working with our logistics partners to develop innovative ways to accelerate the advancement of these types of technology.”
HP does not operate its own trucks, but that’s OK with Embark, which is trying to learn the needs of shippers and fleets while it focuses on software development.
Embark’s Partnership Development Program is the startup’s attempt to win adoption for its universal interface that works in trucks from the Big Four manufacturers — Daimler, Volvo, PACCAR and Navistar.
Right loads to meet commitments
In 2017, Embark was the first to haul freight using Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems, considered Level 2 automation because the driver remains in control at all times. Now, it is perfecting Level 4 high autonomy software that can handle most driving functions, including negotiating highway construction zones. Embark is not yet running its software on surface streets.
“There are no specific commitments,” Kipp said. “But we are working with the team at Embark to curate the right loads to ensure we can meet commitments to our customers while allowing Embark to collect the data that they need to advance their technology.”
“Self-driving freight will inevitably help these large shippers bring additional speed and efficiency into their supply chains,” Alex Rodrigues, Embark CEO, said in a press release.
HP sees another advantage.
“Beyond fuel savings, HP will measure actual CO2 savings to align with our new companywide sustainability goals,” Kipp said. “This program will save up to 10% of CO2 per shipment. Combining this technology along with alternative fuel or electric vehicles will help HP reduce our CO2 impact for road transportation in the U.S.”
Sequoia Capital endorsement
Separately, Embark received a public endorsement from one of its early investors this week. Sequoia Capital, which backed the San Francisco-based company in 2018, said Embark is at an inflection point.
In a Medium post, Sequoia partner Pat Grady wrote that Embark is on the “precipice of creating a new industry. The last three years of focused work have delivered industry-leading self-driving technology and an approach that has been validated by carriers and shippers.”
In a lengthy description of Embark’s milestones, he avoided mentioning competitors, including Aurora Innovation, in which Sequoia Capital is also an investor. Grady is an Embark board member. Sequoia partner Carl Eschenbach serves on Aurora’s board, but the two recuse themselves when each other’s company is discussed internally.
Sequoia Capital invested in Aurora in 2019 when it focused solely on autonomous passenger cars. Aurora has since added autonomous trucks and has partnerships with PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR) and Volvo Group (OTC: VLVLY).
And then there’s China
Sequoia China, which shares a brand but operates as a separate entity independent of Sequoia Capital, is a minor investor in Plus, a Cupertino, California-based autonomous trucking software developer that said Monday it would go public via a business combination with Hennessy Capital V.
Hennessy is a serial creator of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) that avoid the longer initial public offering path to public ownership.