SELF-DRIVING TRUCKS ARE NOW DELIVERING REFRIGERATORS
IF YOU LIVE in Southern California and you’ve ordered one of those fancy new smart refrigerators in the past few weeks, it may have hitched a ride to you on a robotruck.
Since early October, autonomous trucks built and operated by the startup Embark have been hauling Frigidaire refrigerators 650 miles along the I-10 freeway, from a warehouse in El Paso, Texas, to a distribution center in Palm Springs, California. A human driver rides in the cab to monitor the computer chauffeur for now, but the ultimate goal of this (auto) pilot program is to dump the fleshbag and let the trucks rumble solo down the highway.
“This is the first time someone has demonstrated this end-to-end," Embark CEO Alex Rodrigues says. "It showcases the way that we see self-driving playing into the logistics industry.”
Embark is one of many companies that believe semis, not personal cars, are the smartest use of autonomous technology, or at least the best way to get it onto the road ASAP. Major players like Volvo and Daimler are working on their own robo-truckers. So is Elon Musk’s Tesla. Waymo (the company formerly known as Google’s self-driving car effort) is thinking about putting its tech to use in big rigs. Uber's autonomous truck has hauled cases of beer across Colorado. And plenty of startups have popped up, looking to claim some territory in this newly discovered land of opportunity.