Former founder of autonomous driving department ford motor company and Volkswagen A new self-driving truck startup is being launched, backed by a Japanese firm said to be more than $1 billion SoftBank Group Corporation

The new company, called Stack AV, is led by Bryan Salesky, Pete Rander and Brett Browning, who previously ran Argo artificial intelligenceFord and VW’s autonomous driving operations closure last year. Stack AV, based in Pittsburgh, where Argo is located, employs 150 people and already has a test fleet of trucks, Salesky said in an interview.

While Salesky and SoftBank declined to disclose details of their investment in Stack, Pittsburgh economic development official Matt Smith said he expects the investment to be “more than $1 billion” for the city’s growing “Robot Street” technology. The hallway adds a touch.

The founders of Stack AV approached SoftBank earlier this year, and Salesky said the Japanese investment tech group, which manages more than $160 billion in artificial intelligence assets, agreed to provide “patient capital” to help the startup commercialize its self-driving technology. change. Trucking technology.

“SoftBank knows how to scale a global, real-world business,” Selsky said. “This kind of support is very helpful in this type of work where you have to be involved for a long time.”

Growth at Ford and VW impatient Partnering with Argo after co-investment $3.6 billion Last year, the company shut down due to poor market sentiment acidification exist Autopilot technology.A Ford executive at the time said it was easier man on the moon Better than a fully self-driving car on the road.Softbank also quit Investment in AV companies Cruise LLC Last year, it sold its stake to the startup’s parent company for $2.1 billion, General Motors Corporation

But driverless delivery — with its repetitive routes and highway driving — has long shown promise for automation. indeed, Amazon considered rescue Last year, the economic downturn caused the online retailer austerity.

Now, Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank sees a new opportunity to back Stack AV to help address logistics and supply chain issues that have arisen as more consumers turn to online commerce during the pandemic.

“Stack is led by industry veterans Bryan, Pete and Brett who have been instrumental in shaping the AV industry,” SoftBank head of new business Kentaro Matsui said in response to questions via email. “Under their leadership, coupled with SoftBank’s AI expertise and resources, we believe Stack’s AI technology will fundamentally change the movement of goods and supply chains.”

SoftBank is giving Stack AV the time and resources it needs to address the supply chain and safety issues plaguing trucking, Salesky said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

“It takes patient, long-term capital,” Selsky said. “It certainly takes a big vision to get there.”

Stack will work with Alphabet Corporationof Waymowhose Via division specializes in freight, and Aurora Innovationalso in Pittsburgh, and TuSimple Future Holdings Co., Ltd.,currently seek a buyer.Startups and seasoned tech companies have struggling Convince investors that they will ultimately generate meaningful returns.

read more: Ford’s defunct Argo founder launches new self-driving startup

But Salesky said he was demonstrating Stack’s technology on an 18-wheeler to potential customers, who he declined to name, and had received good feedback. While the current fleet uses conventional engines, the technology could be used in electric vehicles.

“Today we have a fleet of trucks going on road tests, and we’re letting potential partners know what we’re doing,” Selsky said. “We’re seeing a lot of interest.”

Salesky and Rander are Alphabet and self-driving veterans uber techsee the strong business case for automated freight.

“We’re thinking about full autonomy, which is a very robust self-driving system that’s not limited to one lane or exit-to-exit,” Selsky said. “We have to get to the point where these trucks can go anywhere for it to eventually be adopted.”

Salesky declined to say when Stack would commercialize its technology. SoftBank’s Matsui also did not give a timeline for when he expects the Stack investment to pay off.

“We understand the vast resources required to be successful,” Matsui said, “and are committed to supporting Stack in executing its vision.”

Having robots drive large trucks would help solve many of the problems with long-haul trucking, such as the ongoing driver shortage and serious safety concerns that account for 500,000 accidents involving large trucks in the United States each year.

“The potential to save lives is enormous,” Selsky said, “and the ability to improve supply chains, improve efficiency, increase uptime and get things where they need to be faster. A strong trucking industry is strong important part of the economy.”

— With assistance from Edward Ludlow and Caroline Hyde

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