SoftBank backs autonomous trucking firm started by ex-Ford self-driving executives

But driverless delivery — with its repetitive routes and highway driving — has long shown promise for automation. Indeed, Inc. considered rescuing Argo last year before a faltering economy caused the online retailer to retrench.

Now Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank sees new opportunity in backing Stack AV to help solve the logistics and supply chain issues that emerged during the pandemic as more consumers turned to online commerce.

“Stack is led by industry veterans, Bryan, Pete, and Brett, who have been instrumental in shaping the AV industry,” Kentaro Matsui, head of new business at SoftBank, said in an emailed response to questions. “Under their leadership, coupled with SoftBank’s AI expertise and resources, we believe Stack’s AI-powered technology will fundamentally change the transportation of goods and supply chains.”

Stack will be competing against Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, whose Via unit specializes in freight, as well as Aurora Innovation, also based in Pittsburgh, and TuSimple Holdings Inc., currently seeking a buyer. Startups and seasoned tech players have struggled to convince investors they will eventually generate a meaningful return.

But Salesky said he is demonstrating Stack’s technology on 18-wheelers to potential customers, whom he declined to name, and the feedback has been good. While the current fleet runs on traditional engines, the technology is capable of being used on electric vehicles.

“We have a fleet of trucks on the road testing today and we’re getting potential partners up-to-speed on what we’re doing,” Salesky said. “We’ve seen a lot of interest.”

Salesky and Rander, veterans of self-driving efforts at Alphabet and Uber Technologies Inc., see a strong business case for automating trucking.

“We’re looking at full-autonomy, a very capable self-driving system that isn’t just constrained to one lane or exit to exit,” Salesky said. “We have to get to a point where these trucks can go anywhere for it to eventually get adopted.”

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