Embark taking autonomous trucks public via SPAC deal

The Robot Report
Embark Trucks SPAC

Customers pay a per-mile subscription fee for Embark’s software to deploy self-driving trucks within their fleets. | Credit: Embark

Embark Trucks is the latest autonomous trucking company to decide to go public. San Francisco-based Embark is merging with special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp. in a deal valued at about $5.2 billion.

The deal for Embark is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals. The boards of both companies have approved the deal. Embark will get about $614 million in cash proceeds, which it said will fund the company through 2024.

Founded in 2016, Embark develops autonomous driving software. It has partnerships with a number of transportation companies and brands, including beer seller Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, technology firm HP Inc. and Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc., the largest truckload carrier in North America. Embark currently has a small developmental fleet running some routes out of Southern California. It hopes to fully commercialize its technology and license it to carriers that operate a large number of trucks.

The operators pay a per-mile subscription cost for Embark’s software to deploy and enable self-driving trucks within their fleets. Embark said it designed its system to be platform agnostic across multiple components and manufacturers. It said its software can simulate up to 1,200, 60-second scenarios per second, and make adaptive predictions using those scenarios for the behavior of other vehicles on the road.

“We think there’s a unique opportunity to really seize this inflection point,” said Embark founder and chief executive Alex Rodrigues. “It’s about having the war chest, the partners and the resources to be a leading franchise that people want to work with.”

Other self-driving trucking companies that have recently announced plans to go public include Plus and TuSimple. Plus said in May that it is going public via a $3.3 billion merger with the Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. “We are on track to start mass production of autonomous trucks this year,” David Liu, CEO and co-founder of Plus, said in a press release at the time. TuSimple Hmade its debut in March 2021 in a $1.35 billion IPO on the Nasdaq stock market.

Plus and TuSimple have strong ties to China, but Embark said it is focused on the U.S.

SPACs have become a hot investment mechanism in robotics, as well as many other industries. Berkshire Grey, Sarcos Robotics, Vicarious Surgical, and a slew of LiDAR companies, have or will be going public via SPACs.

“We have been solely focused on solving the problem of self-driving software for trucking since Embark’s CTO, Brandon Moak, and I founded the company in 2016,” added Rodrigues. “This singular and disciplined focus on the trucking market in the United States has allowed Embark to achieve many industry-first technology milestones – including the first self-driving truck to drive coast-to-coast – and positions Embark to be a leader in autonomous trucking software. The recent accomplishment of key technical milestones – including handling highway workzones on the fly – and the announcement of our Partner Development Program mark the start of Embark’s transition from research to commercialization. After many years of R&D on the world’s most mature self-driving truck software stack, we plan to enable carrier operation of self-driving trucks in the U.S. sunbelt beginning in 2024. Following the transaction with Northern Genesis we expect to have a war chest that fully funds this commercialization plan, and then some.”

Embark also appointed former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao to its board of directors. Secretary Chao’s extensive public and private sector leadership experience will further strengthen Embark’s position in the AV industry. Prior to serving as Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Chao established a distinguished career both in and out of government, serving for eight years as the U.S. Secretary of Labor and as President and CEO of United Way of America.

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Source: therobotreport

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