This fireside chat recap is from Day 2 of FreightWaves’ Future of Freight Festival live event in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For more information on the event, click here.

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: Scaling autonomous trucks for commercial operations.

DETAILS: Autonomous truck manufacturers and truck operators are partnering throughout the U.S. This fireside chat features the testing partnership between Embark and DHL and where top executives at the companies see the economic potential for autonomous trucks.

SPEAKERS: Sam Abidi, chief commercial officer, Embark Trucks; Jon Cox, senior director, solutions design, DHL Supply Chain.

BIOS: Prior to Embark, Abidi worked at Deloitte Consulting where he led the development of the autonomous trucking program, working with companies from across the freight sector to define pilot programs, partnerships, and commercialization strategies to accelerate adoption of autonomous trucking and smart logistics technologies. Abidi also led market strategy for an early-stage computer vision company that served the defense sector and was on the global strategy team at General Motors.

Cox, who leads transportation solutions design for DHL Supply Chain in North America, has spent over 15 years in the supply chain industry working in operations and solutions development, with significant experience working across final mile delivery, dedicated fleet and dedicated capacity services, LLP, and managed transportation service.

KEY QUOTES FROM ABIDI:

“When you’re talking about autonomous trucking, the secret sauce is finding a very limited use case in which you deploy it so that it’s relatively easy to develop the technology.”

“Right now there’s a regimen for how a driver conducts a pre-inspection for a regular Class 8 truck. That same regimen for an autonomous truck looks quite different. You’ve got your base truck of course, but you also have your sensors and computer. That’s a little more intricate, and one of the things we’ve worked with DHL on is, how long does that process take.”  

“I think in the next five years, you’re going to see [autonomous trucking] deploy on meaningful lanes in the U.S. And if you’re a carrier or a shipper, it matters a lot for certain parts of your network. It will really come down to specific lanes — there will be some lanes where it will not be a factor.”

KEY QUOTES FROM COX:

“The stuff that’s not as sexy is what’s going to make autonomous trucking successful, such as how do we pre-certify the loads so that we can bypass the weigh station. And to also have contingency plans in place so if something does go wrong — Embark is working on all this stuff, and it gives us a lot of comfort as their partners.” 

“I think where this makes most economic sense is in long-haul trucking — that’s also where it has been difficult to hire drivers, and that’s where the Class 8 challenges have been most acute the last few years, and quite frankly there’s a lot of volume to be met there.”

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