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What sets Alex Rodrigues, the 22-year-old apart is his determination to bring autonomy to the most unexciting parts of the trucking industry, besides being on the top list of Forbes’ latest 30 under 30. Though he is not the only player in this sector, this co-founder of Embark trucks has seen the benefits of working smarter than the rest in this field. And for Alex Rodrigues, it all began with a robot named Muffin.
Rodrigues competed and won a world robotics championship in 2009, as a junior high school student in Calgary, Alberta. He assembled a 3-foot-tall robot, programming it to complete the task of “Puting hockey pucks into a bin in the middle of a field.”
He has co-founded the San Francisco-based startup Embark Trucks, which is creating a fleet of autonomous 18-wheelers, with its self-driving software into big, blue Peterbilt semi-trucks. Early this year, Embark completed the first coast-to-coast test run by a self-driving truck, travelling from suburban Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida.
Embark aims to build self driving trucks specifically designed for highways. Rodrigues explains that they are able to build a system which is simple and easy to prove that it’s safe and afterwards be passed on to a human for the last bit of the journey.
Rodrigues and his co-founder, Brandon Moak, 23, have come in the Forbes’ latest 30 Under 30 list and in a race with some of the world’s largest companies developing the self-driving tech.
A booming economy that has goods to be delivered at the earliest has possibly helped boost annual trucking revenue to $700 billion, according to a recent American Trucking Association study. It is also an industry struggling with a shortage of human drivers, especially for long-haul highway routes.
Today Embark already has a good number of trucks on the road. These trucks are generating a small amount of revenue transporting loads daily for shippers which also includes big names like Electrolux.