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Mājas Technology Stack’s arrival signals renewed confidence in automated vehicle tech

Stack’s arrival signals renewed confidence in automated vehicle tech

Stack’s arrival signals renewed confidence in automated vehicle tech

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Argo AI’s demise symbolized the self-driving industry’s struggles. The return of its founders in a new venture, Stack, may signal the industry’s recovery.

The launch of self-driving truck startup Stack AV represents more than the return of Argo AI’s co-founders to the autonomous driving realm.

It might be a bellwether for the broader industry’s burgeoning health, said Reilly Brennan, general partner at Trucks Venture Capital.

“That investment announcement was probably one of the most significant things to happen to the automotive technology space in the past 12 months,” he said last week at the Automotive News Congress in Detroit.

Stack was founded with a $1 billion investment from SoftBank Group Corp., according to Crunchbase records. The startup’s executives revealed their intentions to enter the choppy self-driving truck industry this month.

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The company is helmed by Bryan Salesky, Pete Rander and Brett Browning. If the names sound familiar, it’s because all three were senior executives at Argo AI, the self-driving startup funded by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen that closed last October.

Argo’s demise symbolized the automated driving industry’s broader struggles. The return of Salesky, Rander and Browning might capture its renewal.

“Those are great founders, and great founders can often raise money even in a tough market,” Brennan said.

“It’s also a signal SoftBank is back,” he said. “We’re doing billion-dollar funding rounds again. People had thought for a while SoftBank Group was out of that game, and now they’re back.”

Stack enters the autonomous trucking realm at an uncertain time.

Self-driving trucks are considered a potential salve for human driver shortages but have been met with resistance in places such as California. A bill to prohibit AVs from operating without a human driver aboard was passed out of the state Senate last week and now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is expected to veto the legislation.

Aurora Innovation, a top competitor, sold $820 million worth of stock in July to bolster its financial runway. Aurora intends to begin operations in Texas by the end of 2024.

Elsewhere in the long-haul industry, the outlook has been less sure-footed. Just days after Aurora raised that capital, Waymo decided to scale back its self-driving truck program to instead devote efforts to robotaxis. Locomation closed this year, while another company, Embark, explored liquidation before being purchased by Applied Intuition.

Stack already has test vehicles on the road but has not yet divulged a time frame in which it intends to commence commercial driverless operation.

Its founders see an imminent need.

“As global commerce continues to become increasingly interconnected, now more than ever businesses have a dire need for more reliable and efficient supply chains, especially in the trucking and freight industries,” Rander, the company president, said in a written statement.

Stack already has 150 employees. Some work at its Pittsburgh headquarters, and others are located in 14 other states, part of what Stack calls an “innovative remote work/co-working collaboration model.”

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