Embark, Frigidaire and Ryder have joined forces to test vehicle automation processes to make supply chains more efficient.

The coalition’s first tests saw Embarks automated tractors transport refrigerators across the US’s highways, with the help of Ryder’s automated vehicles on smaller roads.

In total, the shipment travelled 650 miles, proving automated technologies can improve both costs and speed of getting goods to customers.

“Trucking is facing a workforce problem,” said Embark’s CEO Alex Rodrigues. “More than 50 percent of all drivers will retire in the next two decades and there aren’t nearly enough young drivers joining the industry to replace them.

“By allowing automation to work together with local drivers to handle less desirable long haul routes, we will be able to increase productivity to address the current 50,000 driver shortage while also creating new local driving jobs that attract younger drivers for the industry.”

Each of the vehicle had an experienced driver available if there were any issues, which is a condition of level 2 automation. The three companies worked with authorities across the US, including in California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona, making sure they were aware of the trials to guarantee optimum safety.

“We believe that automated transportation will play a key role in how logistics networks function in the future,” said Dennis Cooke, President, Global Fleet Management Solutions for Ryder. “Automation will ultimately improve safety, efficiency, and sustainability for our customers who count on Ryder to provide them with guidance around new technologies such as advanced driver-assistance systems. We’re excited to be working with Embark and Frigidaire, to demonstrate these advancements in a real-world logistics operation.”

The testing happened during October, operating completely autonomously, with the driver only having to take to the wheel at a port of entry. At this point, the trucks had been travelling for 306 miles non-stop.