HOUSTON — A self-driving big rig company is shutting down its Houston and Southern California offices.
Embark Trucks CEO Alex Rodrigues sent an email to employees earlier this month saying "the last nine months have been tough" for the industry.
After exhausting all their options, Rodrigues said Embark would be laying off about 70% of the company, in addition to shutting down both its offices in SoCal and Houston.
"I believe that solving autonomous trucking will one day be a huge benefit to society," Rodrigues wrote in the email. "While Embark may not be there to see the vision through in its current form, I hope you know that your work made a difference in pushing the industry forward. You held up your end of that bargain, I was not able to hold up mine — for that I am profoundly sorry."
Embark was one of several companies in the Houston area using the autonomous trucking technology being developed at Texas A&M University.
"If you really, finally want to put these autonomous trucks (on the road) ... they have to pass through Texas," Dr. Srikhanth Saripalli said.
Saripalli is the program director at Texas A&M, which boasts one of the top autonomy programs in the country.
In 2021, Embark announced it would expand into Texas and launch a new self-driving trucking lane between Houston and San Antonio. Their plan was to utilize a test track and 3,000-acre facility solely used for testing the self-driving technology.
In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed laws allowing autonomous vehicles to operate on Texas roads, baiting driverless car companies to the Lone Star State. Companies like Aurora and Waymo have already launched truck test routes on I-45 from Dallas to Houston.