Aurora Says Its Self-Driving Trucks Can Fight Climate Change

Company claims autonomous trucking could increase energy efficiency by up to 32% compared to traditional trucking

Graham Hope

May 7, 2024

3 Min Read
An Aurora self-driving truck on a highway.
Aurora Innovation

A leading self-driving company has published new research that spells out the benefits of autonomous trucking.

Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation, which has been ramping up its autonomous truck operations in Texas, has released a white paper that explains how the tech could have an important role to play in assisting the fight against climate change.

The company is undoubtedly hoping the research can also help convince members of the public about the merits of autonomous vehicles (AVs), with a recent AAA survey revealing that 66% of people actively fear them.

The white paper’s headline claim is that autonomous trucking could increase energy efficiency by up to 32% relative to traditional trucking.

Such a change, it explains, would involve numerous benefits, including allowing the freight and logistics industry to lower emissions, reduce operating costs and meet environmental regulatory mandates.

According to Aurora, transportation makes up around 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., with medium and heavy-duty trucks accounting for 23% of this, although in some states, such as California, these figures are significantly higher.

Autonomous trucking can address this alarming state of affairs in several ways, Aurora argues, with no fewer than seven different opportunities identified that could improve efficiency.

Related:Aurora Upgrades its Self-Driving Technology

Among the most immediate changes it is claimed that AVs would bring is a general lowering of speeds, because there will be no need to adhere to the restrictions of working hours. Even a reduction to 65 mph from 75 mph could see fuel consumption cut by up to 17%.

Another quick fix would be a reduction in the idling that occurs when human drivers take a break. It is believed this could cut fuel consumption by up to 9%.

A further cut in fuel consumption, of potentially 9.5%, is said to be achievable simply because\ AVs are inherently superior to humans at driving and can optimize braking and acceleration better.

Aurora also points out that because AVs can operate 24 hours a day, more freight could be transported at supposed “off-peak” times, further reducing fuel consumption by limiting wasted hours stuck in congestion.

Longer term, Aurora believes the introduction of autonomous trucks will accelerate the adoption of even more advanced electric and hydrogen fuel cell powertrains.

The white paper was written by Gareth Bray, Aurora’s product director, who holds a Ph.D. in engineering and a master’s in engineering for sustainable development from the University of Cambridge. 

Related:AAA Survey Finds Drivers Don’t Trust Self-Driving Vehicles

“As autonomous trucks make hauling freight safer, we have a responsibility to make logistics more sustainable as well,” he said. 

We could be very close to seeing driverless Aurora trucks on public roads in the U.S. The company plans to launch fully driverless testing later this year, having already established autonomous services in Texas with safety drivers, including on the busy Dallas to Houston route.

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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