Aurora’s Driverless Truck Tech Close to Commercialization

Aurora Innovation hopes to deploy its autonomous trucks next year

Graham Hope

April 6, 2023

2 Min Read
Aurora Innovation

Self-driving specialist Aurora Innovation has confirmed that its Aurora Driver tech is now “Feature Complete” – taking the company one step closer to launching commercial deployments of autonomous trucks in 2024.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Chris Urmson detailed what this means saying, “we’ve taught the Aurora Driver what it needs to be able to safely haul freight when we go driverless between Dallas and Houston next year.” This service will be known as Aurora Horizon.

The Aurora Driver comprises a sensor suite made up of radar, standard lidar and the company’s “FirstLight Lidar” – which can see more than twice the distance of conventional Lidar, enabling higher speeds. The sensors are paired with Aurora’s powerful computing system and the Aurora Atlas high-definition mapping system. 

“Feature Complete” status coincides with the release of the Beta 6.0 version of the Aurora Driver. Among the improvements it introduces is the ability to detect and respond to infrequent, unexpected scenarios such as sudden heavy rain, snow or fog that reduce visibility, high winds that compromise control of the truck, and collisions with other road users or objects. 

In these circumstances, the Aurora Driver slows down or even stops, as a human driver would do, and a remote Command Center Specialist is notified.

Related:Aurora Upgrades its Self-Driving Technology

“Aurora Driver Beta 6.0 marks the first time a fleet of trucks is equipped to operate with all of the primary technical features and driving capabilities required by our commercial product – from common maneuvers like negotiating lane changes, unprotected turns or active construction zones, to slightly common scenarios involving scattered road debris or emergency vehicles, to rare events like collisions or extreme weather,” said Sterling Anderson, co-founder and chief product officer.

Over the last 18 months, Aurora has incrementally improved the Aurora Driver’s autonomous performance, safety, and reliability through six Beta updates in pilots for companies like FedEx, Werner, Schneider and Uber Freight.

Now, with “Feature Complete” status attained, the focus is on achieving the next milestone on the roadmap to commercialization, “Driver Ready,” which will see the company closing the safety case for the Aurora Driver via a final phase of refinement and validation.

This is expected to be achieved by the end of the year on the Dallas to Houston route, by which time the number of pilot loads being carried out weekly is expected to have increased to 100 from the current tally of 40.

Related:Uber Freight, Aurora Expand Self-Driving Pilot for Holiday Rush

Although the Dallas-Houston route is the immediate priority, Aurora has made clear that the potential span of its logistics network stretches right across the United States.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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