Autonomous truck technology has the potential to change the cost structure of the carrier industry. A McKinsey & Company report said that a fully autonomous trucking market would cut operating costs by 45 percent, saving carrier companies between $85 billion and $125 billion annually.
Startup Ike announced on Medium Tuesday that it raised $52 million in a Series A funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures. Ajay Agarwal, a Bain Capital Ventures partner, joined Ike’s board.
Basis Set Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Neo and Redpoint Ventures participated in the funding round as well. Ike plans to use the capital to expand its development team in order to build a commercial market-scale product.
“The temptation when you’re working on this technology – because there’s so much potential and because there’s so much excitement for it – especially for small companies in the early stages, is to try and hack something together and try to get up and running really quickly,” Alden Woodrow, co-founder and CEO of Ike told TechCrunch in a recent interview.
“Because our road map is measured in years, we’ve got some time to get it right,” Woodrow said.
Ike is focused on issues currently facing the carrier industry – driver shortages, new regulations, growing accident rates and the rise of e-commerce. Ike believes self-driving trucks can solve these issues by making trucks safer and drivers more productive.
The advantage of autonomous trucks will be their application with highway operations. According to the McKinsey report, long-distance highway trips are the least popular for drivers. Using autonomous trucks on these trips would save $24 billion in labor costs and enable carriers to use truck assets 20 hours per day rather than 11, thereby increasing efficiency and expanding capacity.
The key to Ike’s mission is not to use self-driving trucks to replace drivers, but to improve the livelihoods of drivers. Ike’s self-driving technology is focused around highway operations, allowing drivers to work in the industry close to their homes.