Velocity alumnus Embark raises $15M in Series A for self-driving semi-trucks
Embark is revolutionizing commercial transportation with self-driving trucks equipped with neural net-based deep learning. The company announced it has raised $15 million in Series A financing led by Data Collective, with participation from YC Continuity, Maven Ventures, and SV Angel. The post-money valuation for Embark is now $75 million.
The funding will help Embark hire new talent, specifically adding to their robust engineering team which currently includes experts from SpaceX, Volkswagen, and Stanford University. The team of 14 and counting will also use the funds to gear up for a broad commercialized launch. In part with their funding announcement, the startup also revealed a partnership with semi-truck manufacturer Peterbilt. The autonomous driving startup originally built its test prototype on a Peterbilt 579 semi-truck, and this team-up will help them manufacture their new test fleet at the Peterbilt factory in Denton, Texas.
An advantage of Embark’s approach, according to Data Collective Managing Partner Matt Ocko in a statement, is that they’re “producing top-notch real-world driving results far more quickly and on far less capital than anyone else.” Embark’s solution offers great performance without requiring advance exhaustive mapping of all U.S. roads, he notes, which will cut down the time it takes to bring it to market. An Embark truck recently completed a 50-mile test route, navigating along 4 different highways without any human intervention. The long haul stretches of open interstate between cities are where professional drivers are more vulnerable to distraction and drowsiness. Taking the freeway scenarios out of their hands should eventually mean that drivers can do more loads per day, increasing efficiency, cutting cost and addressing the demand for trucking that is outpacing driver supply.
Co-founders Alex Rodrigues and Brandon Moak are Velocity alumni and won $25K at the Spring 2015 Velocity Fund Finals pitch competition with their pre-pivot startup Varden Labs (self-driving campus shuttles). Both entrepreneurs also lived in the Velocity Residence on campus at the University of Waterloo, before attending Y Combinator in 2016 and raising a $2.1 million seed round.
Embark is committed to developing the software that will serve as a semi-truck’s central cortex: the intelligence that will drive the future of self-driving trucking. They believe self-driving vehicles will be able to save lives, reduce emissions, and free up billions of hours.