Navigating Snowy Conditions with Autonomous Trucks
Embark Trucks, Inc. has announced a roadmap to develop and deploy technology that allows Embark-equipped trucks to operate autonomously in snowy conditions. Embark is planning to develop and publicly demonstrate a capability that leverages the Company’s patent-pending Vision Map Fusion (VMF) technology to enable Embark-equipped trucks to navigate snowy conditions autonomously by the end of winter 2022.
In June 2021, Embark shared its initial “Roadmap to Driver Out”, detailing the 16 key technology achievements required to deploy autonomous technology in the US Sunbelt. Embark has already achieved 11 milestones and aims to complete the remaining five by the commercial deployment of its technology in 2024.
While driving in snow is not a capability Embark identified to commercialize in 2024, by continuing to develop the system for the most complex situations and scenarios, Embark will expand its class-leading autonomous driving capabilities and position itself to continue its national expansion following its anticipated Phase I Sunbelt rollout in 2024.
To date, autonomous trucking companies have largely avoided operating in regions that are home to snowy climates, as snow poses a unique challenge to the sensors and maps relied upon by autonomous vehicles. Snow presents a challenge for even the most experienced drivers, but safely driving in snowy conditions is required to ensure continuity and efficiency in supply chains.
Many AV companies have built autonomous driving software that uses HD maps to navigate the road. Unfortunately, this type of map-reliant AV software often fails in snowy conditions because it expects that the environment it senses will closely match what is in its maps, which may no longer be true after a snowfall. Embark has a significant advantage when it comes to addressing snowy roads. The Company’s proprietary and patent-pending VMF technology allows Embark-equipped autonomous trucks to operate even where the surrounding terrain has been altered by snowfall. Embark has been conducting winter road data collection to develop enhanced perception capabilities using VMF to enable the Embark Driver to safely navigate snowy and wet conditions. To better validate and measure the progress of the technology, Embark plans to demonstrate autonomous driving on snowy roads by the end of winter.
“VMF is one of the main technology differentiators for Embark, designed specifically for trucks, and allowing us to operate in even the most challenging road conditions. With enhancements to our perception stack, our world-class engineering team will achieve another industry-first technology milestone using VMF,” said Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark. “Not only is Embark executing against its existing commercialization timeline, but we’re also going above and beyond by developing technology like this to prepare for long-term deployments and growth.”
Looking ahead, Embark plans to continue to execute on its previously-outlined commercial and technical roadmap as it prepares for large-scale commercial operations in 2024.