Embark Trucks, a developer of autonomous technology for the trucking industry, has completed a public demonstration of its emergency vehicle interaction capability.
Working closely with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Embark developed the capability for Embark-powered trucks to identify and stop for law enforcement vehicles in situations such as traffic stops, and built communication protocols and standard operating procedures between autonomous trucks and law enforcement officers.
This represents the first-ever public demonstration of an autonomous truck being pulled over by law enforcement and participating in a routine traffic stop on a public highway.
On Embark’s technical capabilities roadmap (see attached graphic), which details the 16 capabilities required to commercially deploy autonomous trucks in the US Sunbelt, the emergency vehicle interaction capability represents the next milestone achieved by the company.
With the completion of this successful public demonstration, Embark has now achieved 12 technical milestones on its roadmap, marking another major step towards commercial deployment of its technology.
Emily Warren, head of public policy at Embark Trucks, says: “The ability to engage safely in emergency vehicle interactions is necessary to operate an autonomous vehicle on public roads.
“Law enforcement always needs to be able to stop a commercial vehicle – autonomous or not – to ensure compliance with the law. This capability was designed to work seamlessly within existing law enforcement workflows, without requiring new training or technology investment by first responders.”
Embark’s emergency vehicle interaction capability is an engineering breakthrough for autonomous trucking with two key components:
- First, Embark’s engineering team built the technical functionality for the capability. This included training Embark-powered trucks to identify emergency vehicles via lights and other cues, and then respond accordingly by pulling over safely onto highway shoulders.
- Second, Embark developed an interaction procedure with input from law enforcement that can enable any law enforcement officer to safely stop, approach, and receive information from an autonomous truck intuitively and without any additional equipment. When commercially deployed, this effort may include outfitting Embark trucks with clear visual cues and information to signal to law enforcement and other first responders that an Embark-powered truck is an autonomous vehicle and has come to a safe stop with no risk of restarting unexpectedly. Embark’s externally accessible lockbox, containing information such as registration and bills of lading, as well as a toll-free number to contact an Embark Guardian support technician, are also included in the company’s plans to assist law enforcement officers as they perform roadside traffic stops.
Together, these features represent a comprehensive process for Embark-powered trucks to comply with law enforcement requests, just like a human-driven truck would respond in similar situations.
To develop this capability, Embark, TCSO, and Texas DPS executed comprehensive data collection and testing from April to June that included closed-course activity at the Texas A&M University RELLIS Campus test track as well as public road demonstrations.
During Embark’s industry-first demonstration, which took place in late June on Texas State Highway 130 near Austin, deputies from the TCSO’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division followed an Embark-powered truck along a designated route and successfully completed a traffic stop of the Embark truck.
A deputy was able to confirm the truck was safe to approach via an external status display on the side of the truck, then walked through the procedure of accessing the truck’s documentation via an external lockbox, using a code that would be provided by a remote Embark Guardian support technician.
The demonstration concluded after the deputy completed his traffic stop and followed the truck as it re-entered highway traffic. Embark published a white paper detailing this procedure and how it can be replicated in other jurisdictions.