Embark Trucks co-founder and CEO, Alex Rodrigues.
Winner of the 2021 Dream Big "Young Entrepreneur" award, Embark Trucks co-founder and CEO Alex Rodrigues combined passion with purpose to bring automation to the trucking industry. — Embark Trucks

Tech engineer Alex Rodrigues didn't wait for the future to arrive — he brought the future to the trucking industry with an innovative solution.

As the CEO and co-founder of Embark Trucks, Rodrigues and his team combined passion with purpose to create a ground-breaking technology business — which resulted in him winning the Young Entrepreneur award at CO–’s 2021 Dream Big Awards. In 2021, he also became the youngest current CEO of a publicly traded company at age 26.

Rodrigues’ passion for engineering started long before self-driving vehicles were a mainstream idea. At age 11, he began participating in robotics competitions, started building increasingly larger robots, and later built the first autonomous vehicle in Canada. He and his team were approached by truckers and fleets interested in applying the self-driving technology to trucking, which led to co-founding Embark.

“Long-haul trucking is one of the most important parts of the U.S. economy, and roughly 70% of goods shipped are transported by trucks,” said Rodrigues. “We knew the use case was a natural fit for automation.”

[Learn more about the 2022 Dream Big Awards, and enter your business by July 8 for a chance to win $25,000!]

A commitment to innovation and safety

Embark Trucks makes automotive-grade self-driving software that can transform any fleet into an autonomous one. It remains America’s longest-running self-driving truck program — representing over 35,000 trucks and $22 billion in annual freight spend. Embark aims to modernize the trucking industry by making it safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.

Not only does Embark Trucks’ technology make the trucking industry safer, but it also addresses America’s growing driver shortage. Dangerous conditions like perilous weather, erratic drivers, and overworked truckers can have fatal consequences. In addition, companies reported a record deficit of 80,000 truckers last year.

“In the last 25 years, more than 1 million people have died in road deaths in the United States. A significant portion of those involved semi-trucks,” said Rodrigues. “The Embark Driver — our autonomous vehicle software — ‘sees’ with multiple redundant sensors, never gets tired or distracted, and is always thinking ahead.”

[Read More: How to Start a Trucking Company]

My most important job as CEO is twofold. First, hire excellent people, and second, make sure they have the trust, context, and tools to use [their] excellence in a way that is most impactful to Embark’s goals.

Alex Rodrigues, co-founder and CEO, Embark Trucks

Trust in your team and yourself

As a CEO, Rodrigues knows Embark Trucks only goes as far as the people working there. All the talent in the world means nothing if the team doesn’t have the resources and motivation to succeed. As such, Rodrigues places an emphasis on hiring people who fit the company, as opposed to making the company fit the person.

“My most important job as CEO is twofold,” he told CO–. “First, hire excellent people, and second, make sure they have the trust, context, and tools to use [their] excellence in a way that is most impactful to Embark’s goals.”

Rodrigues encourages young tech engineers who aspire to become entrepreneurs to not be afraid to embrace their passions.

“If your passion is in solutions for sustainability, longevity, or rocket engineering as opposed to websites and coding, don’t be afraid to start a business based on that passion,” he advised. “These [industries] take longer and require more capital, but real science and technology progress is super impactful — and that fact supercharges your company.”

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