Ryder to build logistics network with autonomous trucking company Embark – TechCrunch

Ryder, a supply chain and fleet management company, has partnered with another autonomous trucking company. Ryder announced on Thursday its plans to assist Embark in launching a national network of 100 transfer points. The autonomous trucking company will own and operate the network.
Ryder's third public partnership with autonomous trucks companies. It announced plans to assist Waymo Via in scaling its autonomous trucking company by providing standard fleet management and maintenance. Ryder will also be working with TuSimple in order to make its facilities available as terminals for the startup.

We are at the forefront of technology and beginning to see that AV could play a significant role in the future transportation logistics. Therefore, we want to get in early and work with companies that have already dominated the market with their technologies. Karen Jones, Ryders EVP, New Product Innovation, told TechCrunch.

Jones stated that Ryder is in discussions with other AV companies such as Aurora, Kodiak and Plus. However, no additional deals are currently in the works. Jones said Ryder hopes to grow and learn from the many use cases it has with other AV companies like Aurora, Kodiak, and Plus. He also plans to create a replicable hub model that will allow the company to go to market more quickly.

Jones said that even though we are moving this technology forward, there are still many unknowns about how to maintain, service, and operate it. Ryder is an ideal partner because we have large facilities for maintenance and we also have our supply chain, logistics and business. Ryder is a true operator who understands the requirements of these facilities as well as the difficulties involved in getting vehicles into larger facilities for delivery.

Ryder will manage the yard, maintenance, and fleet management as part of its partnership Embark. Ryder will also be an advisor on Embark's network of strategically placed transfer points, where freight is moved from driverless long haul trucks to driver-controlled trucks. This allows for first- and final-mile delivery.

Jones says Ryder will help Embark understand the requirements for the facilities. He will also be cooperating with third-party partners of Embarks who will either construct or locate these facilities. The companies will choose sites in key freight markets in California and Arizona, Texas, Georgia Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Tennessee. Embark will then be able start operations in the early part of next year, in preparation for a bigger commercial launch in 2024.

Sun Belt regions are often chosen by autonomous companies to start operations. It is rare that inclement weather patterns such as snow and sleet will be considered, making them an ideal environment for testing. Ryder and Embark plan to collaborate with a network real estate agents to open 100 Embark transfer stations across the country over the next five-years.

According to CEO Alex Rodrigues, Embark is currently moving freight for companies such as HP and Budweiser makers AB inBev as well as Knight Swift Transportation and Werner Enterprises, and other top 25 U.S. truckload carrier.

Rodrigues states that Embarks currently operating freight partnerships are pilots or smaller scale versions for what Rodrigues plans to launch in future. Today, 16 trucks are part of the company's fleet that operates on highways. There is a human safety officer in the front seat for emergencies, but the driver usually takes over the driving duties, even when the AV encounters an unexpected situation.

It is necessary to build a network off-highway transfer hubs in order to operate on highways. This can be costly and time-consuming, but it is essential. TuSimple is, however, using existing Ryder locations to retrofit them to be TuSimple terminals. This is in contrast with Embark's approach of building new terminals. Waymo Via will also be building its own hubs. Ryders fleet maintenance and inspections as well as roadside assistance will allow Waymo's autonomous trucking arm to scale these sites and maximize vehicle uptime.

Ryder's diverse capabilities are used in all these use cases. This allows Ryder to see its potential in the AV industry and not just the logistics. Jones stated that the company is open for autonomous fleets if necessary. The company is well-established in its last-mile and first-mile delivery services.

Ryder has many options. As the AV initiative develops, Ryder will have many opportunities to play. But our first foray is servicing and understanding the technology as well as the requirements to operate hubs. Jones said that there are many other spaces Ryder can take part in.