San Francisco-based autonomous trucking company Starsky Robotics announced this morning that it’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 — as seen on this GoPro footage.
“If you need a person in the vehicle, you’re not solving the problem,” co-founder and CEO Stegan Seltz-Axmacher told TechCrunch on a call prior to the announcement. “There are quite a number of places where right now you can pilot unmanned vehicles on the road. The reason people haven’t done unmanned testing isn’t because of regulation. That’s an easy excuse.”
Of course, Starsky’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, aren’t nearly as focused on full-autonomy as Starsky.
“None of the big companies really care about this, all that much,” he explained. "The big OEMs seem to be doing just enough to keep their shareholders from panicking. The big tech companies don’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. They’re either incompetent or this doesn’t matter. My guess would be the latter.”
The company’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.