Autonomous trucking startup Embark lands $30 million in funding

Embark Trucks has raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital in its bid to be the first to develop and launch a commercially viable driverless truck.

Sequoia partner Pat Grady has joined Embark’s board. Existing investors including Data Collective, YCombinator, SV Angel and AME Cloud also participated in the round, Embark announced Thursday.

Embark, which was founded in 2016, has raised $47 million to date.

The autonomous trucking field is starting to become crowded. A number of companies, and more it seems every day, are all developing and testing autonomous trucks, including TuSimple, Starsky Robotics, Anthony Levandowski’s new company Kache.aiWaymo, and Uber.

Each competitor in this emerging industry has a slightly different approach with the same general aim.

Embark, for instance, doesn’t want to replace the driver completely. The company, which emerged publicly in February 2017, envisions local drivers on the two tail ends of a long haul journey. A local driver would handle the piece from a warehouse to the interstate. From there, the driver would drop its freight and Embark’s self-driving system takes over, with a completely autonomous stint on the freeway. A local driver at the end of the trip would then take the freight to its final drop off point.

The company believes its tech, once deployed, will help decrease the number of drivers needed for long-haul trips.

Despite its relatively small size—there are just 35 employees—Embark has made considerable headway.

Embark has now added operations in Los Angeles suburb Ontario, according to co-founder and CEO Alex Rodrigues who published Thursday a post on Medium on its new funding. The added operations places Embark in the middle of the West Coast’s biggest freight hubs, Rodrigues wrote, adding that the company’s presence in the region was the key to hitting its milestones for the first half of 2018.

Embark is now running a daily service on its freight route from Los Angeles to Phoenix. “As of June, our system can complete the route end-to-end with no disengagements,” Rodrigues wrote. “This includes lane changes, merges, on-ramps, off-ramps and lots of LA-metro traffic.”

In February, Embark completed a 2,400-mile drive from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Fla. The drive, which included a safety driver behind the wheel, took five days because of schedule rest breaks. Embark contends that the same trip would take only two days once its tech is cleared to run on its own.