The accelerating pace of electrification and autonomous trucking requires a scorecard to keep up. FreightWaves assembled many of the major players in both technologies to offer perspectives during this Wednesday’s virtual Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Summit.

The summit kicks off with a keynote discussion between Amy Davis, president of the New Power division at Cummins Inc., and FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller. 

Davis discusses what she sees as a genuine effort by truck makers and suppliers to be in the forefront of advanced technologies like hydrogen fuel cells. Cummins, best known for diesel engines, has developed hydrogen and fuel cell expertise on its own and through acquisitions that could mean hundreds of millions in hydrogen revenues by mid-decade.

The autonomous trucking horse race

Four of the six recognized leaders in Level 4 high-autonomy trucks and one that predated them all participate in fireside chats. 

Torc Robotics, which cast its lot with Daimler Trucks in a 2019 merger, insists that a pure play autonomous truck must be developed from the chassis up. Bolt-on hardware and a software stack is not safe enough, CEO Michael Fleming told summit co-host and FreightWaves Detroit Bureau Chief Alan Adler. 

Torc’s efforts in autonomous driving date to 2005 before the categories assigned to levels of automation existed.

Alex Rodrigues, the co-founder and CEO of Embark Trucks, the newest special purpose acquisition company (SPAC)-sponsored autonomous trucking software developer, tells Adler how being the first to drive autonomously across the country in 2018 has fostered more recent innovation like a universal interface compatible with all major truck makers.

Kodiak Robotics, the newest of the players in the autonomous trucking race, continues to focus on best-in-class software, over financially oriented headlines. But CEO Don Burnette  said he is always interested in partnerships, technological and financial.

Getting regulations right

The three main challenges to getting fully autonomous trucks commercialized are software validation, hardware actuation and regulations. The last of the three is why Plus has hired Wiley Deck, former Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration executive, as its vice president of government affairs and policy. Plus is the summit’s Universal Sponsor.

Deck talks with FreightWaves Washington correspondent John Gallagher about the challenges of creating federal regulations for autonomy versus a patchwork of state rules in place today.

In one of the most ambitious efforts to commercialize autonomous trucking, TuSimple Holdings, the first of the autonomous companies to go public, and manufacturer Navistar International announced a year ago they would work together to have a Level 4 truck for sale by 2024.

Mo Poorsartep, TuSimple chief engineer and director of project management, and Srinivas Gowda, Navistar vice president of autonomous driving, discuss meeting the timeline and how access to Navistar’s customers helps get TuSimple the feedback to meet their needs.

Electrify this

In electrification, Jack Allen, the CEO of growth-stage electric bus, battery pack and infrastructure developer Proterra Inc., explains to Adler why the company chose to go public via SPAC rather than a traditional initial public offering (IPO). A quick infusion of hundreds of millions in cash from blank check investors is only part of the reason.

SPAC-based electric chassis maker Xos Trucks takes on creating the zero-tailpipe-emission vehicles that have less cache, such as armored trucks and yard tractors. CEO Dakota Semler talks about the growing business with FreightWaves Executive Publisher Kevin Hill.

Exposing the short-term rental and leasing customer to electric trucks gives Ryder System Inc. a grounded view of how electric trucks will play on Main Street. Ryan Salvail, Ryder director of advanced vehicle technology, discusses the early reactions with FreightWaves senior writer Mark Solomon.

Mike Ramsey, Gartner Inc. vice president and automotive and smart mobility analyst, ties the innovations in mobility together in a discussion with Sebastian Blanco, editor of the FreightWaves Transmission newsletter.

Registration is free

The Summit begins at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday and includes a topical live hour of guests with expertise in autonomous trucks including Plus Chief Operating Officer Shawn Kerrigan, on WHAT THE TRUCK?!? You can register here.

Related articles:

Bus and battery maker Proterra exits SPAC with $640M payout

Amazon could acquire 20% of Plus for buying $150M of autonomous systems

Embark Trucks: Autonomous testing pioneer latest to join SPAC parade

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.