A common question that arises in conversations about autonomous trucks: What happens if law enforcement needs to pull a vehicle over? Autonomous-tech company Embark recently worked with law enforcement to demonstrate how it can work.
Working closely with the Texas Department of Public Safety the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, the company developed the capability for Embark-powered trucks to identify and stop for law enforcement vehicles in situations such as traffic stops. The company built communication protocols and standard operating procedures between autonomous trucks and law enforcement officers.
According to Embark, this represents the first public demonstration of an autonomous truck being pulled over by law enforcement and participating in a routine traffic stop on a public highway.
A video of the capability in action can be viewed below.
“The ability to engage safely in emergency vehicle interactions is necessary to operate an autonomous vehicle on public roads,” said Emily Warren, head of public policy, Embark Trucks in the statement. “Law enforcement always needs to be able to stop a commercial vehicle — autonomous or not — to ensure compliance with the law. This capability was designed to work seamlessly within existing law enforcement workflows, without requiring new training or technology investment by first responders.”
How Embark Trucks Can Interact With Law Enforcement
Embark’s emergency vehicle interaction capability features two key components:
- Embark’s engineering team built the technical functionality for the capability. This included training Embark-powered trucks to identify emergency vehicles via lights and other cues, and then respond accordingly by pulling over safely onto highway shoulders.
- Embark developed an interaction procedure with input from law enforcement that can enable any law enforcement officer to safely stop, approach, and receive information from an autonomous truck intuitively and without any additional equipment. When commercially deployed, this may include outfitting Embark trucks with clear visual cues and information to signal to law enforcement and other first responders that an Embark-powered truck is an autonomous vehicle and has come to a safe stop with no risk of restarting unexpectedly. Embark’s externally accessible lockbox, containing information such as registration and bills of lading, as well as a toll-free number to contact an Embark Guardian support technician, are also included in the company’s plans to assist law enforcement officers as they perform roadside traffic stops.
Embark worked with law enforcement on comprehensive data collection and testing from April to June. It included closed-course activity at the Texas A&M University test track as well as public road demonstrations.
In a demonstration that took place in late June on Texas State Highway 130 near Austin, deputies from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division followed an Embark-powered truck along a designated route and successfully completed a traffic stop of the Embark truck.
A deputy was able to confirm the truck was safe to approach via an external status display on the side of the truck. Then he walked through the procedure of accessing the truck’s documentation via an external lockbox, using a code that would be provided by a remote Embark Guardian support technician.
The demonstration concluded after the deputy completed his traffic stop and followed the truck as it re-entered highway traffic. Embark published a white paper detailing this procedure and how it can be replicated in other jurisdictions.
Embark's Roadmap to Driver-Out Truck Operations
On Embark’s technical capabilities roadmap, which details the 16 capabilities the company believes are required to commercially deploy autonomous trucks in the U.S. Sunbelt, the emergency vehicle interaction capability represents the next milestone achieved by the company, according to a news release. With the completion of this public demonstration, Embark has now achieved 12 technical milestones on its roadmap.
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