San Francisco-based autonomous trucking company Starsky Robotics announced this morning that itâ€™s closed a $16.5 million Series A, led by Shasta Ventures. The news comes as the company also announced that it recently completed a seven-minute drive on a closed course without a single human in the truck â€” as seen on this GoPro footage.
â€œIf you need a person in the vehicle, youâ€™re not solving the problem,â€� co-founder and CEO Stegan Seltz-Axmacher told TechCrunch on a call prior to the announcement. â€œThere are quite a number of places where right now you can pilot unmanned vehicles on the road. The reason people havenâ€™t done unmanned testing isnâ€™t because of regulation. Thatâ€™s an easy excuse.â€�
Of course, Starskyâ€™s hardly alone in its goal of automating the banal and often dangerous job of long-haul trucking. Earlier this week, Uber announced that it had begun cargo hauls in Arizona, using a combination of humans and automation. And last month, Embark, a startup found in 2016, revealed that it had completed a coast to coast trip from Los Angeles to Florida with a driver in the back seat.
But Seltz-Axmacher says he believes that the big names, at least, arenâ€™t nearly as focused on full-autonomy as Starsky.
â€œNone of the big companies really care about this, all that much,â€� he explained. â€œThe big OEMs seem to be doing just enough to keep their shareholders from panicking. The big tech companies donâ€™t seem to really care about trucks. Uber, for example, has at least 50 times the size of our tech team, and they just started hauling freight with their self-driving trucks. We started doing that in April of last year. Theyâ€™re either incompetent or this doesnâ€™t matter. My guess would be the latter.â€�
The companyâ€™s certainly got the ambitions to match the big check Shasta and co. recently cut. It plans to start real-world deliveries before the end of the year, according to Seltz-Axmacher.
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