This year, companies and investors are on pace to put just over $1 billion into self-driving and other trucking technologies, 10 times the level of three years ago, according to CB Insights, which tracks the venture-capital industry.
Tesla is widely expected late Thursday to showcase an electric truck that will have some self-driving capabilities. And Embark, a Silicon Valley startup, announced Monday that it has been testing its self-driving technology as part of a three-way partnership with the truck-leasing company Ryder and the appliance giant Electrolux.
It is expected that whenever self-driving trucks arrive, there will be economic ripples, affecting insurance premiums, truck stops, vocational schools and the roads themselves.
“We are trying to get self-driving technology out on the road as fast as possible,” said Alex Rodrigues, Embark’s chief executive. “Trucking needs self-driving and self-driving needs trucking.”
Unlike autonomous cars, which face questions about navigating chaotic urban streets, trucks spend a lot of time heading straight on desolate highways. And while the advent of the self-driving car will rest on the decisions of individual consumers, logistics companies are unemotional operators that will upgrade their fleets the moment it makes financial sense.
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