September 8, 2023

Shuttered Argo AI founders try autonomous trucking


The founders of shuttered self-driving car startup Argo AI, which was abandoned by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, are starting an autonomous trucking business with $1 billion in backing from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

“With our proprietary technology and expertise as well as the commitment from our long-term partner in SoftBank, we are confident we will revolutionize the trucking and freight industries,” Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Stack AV, said in a news release.

The move is surprising given an overall contraction in autonomous trucking companies. 

Embark Trucks, once considered a technology leader in autonomous trucking, ran out of money. Alphabet Inc. reduced its investment in Waymo and refocused its business on ride-hailing instead of its Waymo Via trucking operations. One-time autonomous leader TuSimple is considering leaving the U.S. market to focus on China and Japan.

‘Some built-in advantages’ for Stack AV

“They obviously aren’t starting from zero, and they have some built-in advantages. But there’s still a lot of work to become competitive,” Mike Ramsey, Gartner Inc. vice president and an industry analyst, told FreightWaves. “It will be a challenge to catch up even with their talent and experience.”

The financial investment from SoftBank provides a solid financial runway. Stack AV is based in Pittsburgh where Argo AI was located. Another autonomous trucking startup, Aurora Innovation, is also based there. It recently raised more than $850 million in new capital from current investors. That suggests the freeze-up of venture capital may be thawing.

“I know Bryan has always been bullish on the delivery market for AVs,” Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights, told FreightWaves. “Even with Argo, that was going to be a big part of what they were doing … last-mile and middle-mile deliveries.”

Stack AV envisions AI-powered systems

Stack AV is confident it can revolutionize the trucking and freight industries. It is focused on driving improvements in efficiency and safety and alleviating supply chain constraints, Salesky said.

The new company will leverage its know-how of advanced AI-powered autonomous driving systems to improve supply chains and make the most of transportation routes and energy efficiency, President Peter Rander said.

SoftBank is supporting the Stack AV company with capital, resources and deep expertise in AI to help accelerate its growth and technological developments.

“The transformative power of AI is undeniable and will have a significant impact on our society,” said Kentaro Matsui, head of the New Business Office at SoftBank Group and managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “The next decade will be defined by AI, where all social systems will be linked by this technology to solve the most complex societal issues.” 

Stack AV’s leadership team — Salesky, Rander and Chief Technology Officer Brett Browning — have more than seven decades of combined experience. Stack AV has 150 employees across its headquarters and in 15 states.

“Going to the trucking space is probably a good step for them to be taking,” Abuelsamid said. “I think they probably have as good a chance of succeeding as anybody.”

Aurora Innovation raises $820 million in fresh capital

TuSimple prepares to exit US autonomous trucking market

Embark Technology goes private in $71M deal

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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