November 3, 2023
Aurora Innovation has opened what is claimed to be America’s first lane for driverless trucks bookended by two commercial-ready terminals.
The route is along the I-45 between Dallas and Houston, which presently accommodates broadly half of all truck freight in the state of Texas.
The creation of a new terminal for autonomous trucks in Houston follows the launch of a similar facility in Palmer, South Dallas earlier this year, ensuring the corridor will be well placed to support the Pittsburgh-based company’s planned commercial launch for fully driverless trucks, which is planned for next year.
Currently, Aurora is running 75 autonomous runs a week with safety drivers, having secured deals with pilot customers such as FedEx, Schneider and Uber Freight. It has previously said it wants to increase this to 100 by the end of the year.
The terminals will be used for a variety of purposes, including housing trucks fitted with the firm’s Aurora Driver autonomous tech, as well as inspections and maintenance, and preparation for deployments.
The availability of on-site weigh stations, for example, will ensure the trucks comply with regulatory standards and do not have to stop at inspection sites on the road, meaning trips can be completed more quickly.
In addition, the terminals will offer other bespoke capabilities, including sensor calibration, high-speed data offloading and dedicated launching and landing areas.
According to Aurora, the hubs have been designed to operate day and night, 365 days a year, with a focus on providing swift service to allow trucks to spend the maximum time on the road. The ability to operate continuously is, of course, one of the big benefits that autonomous trucks offer over human-piloted ones.
The terminals will be supported by a team of dispatchers who will allocate trucks and trailers, as well as a remote Command Center manned by specialists who will monitor the fleet on the road.
Sterling Anderson, co-founder and chief product officer at Aurora, claimed the breakthrough marked a key moment for the company. “Opening a driverless trucking lane flanked by commercially-ready terminals is an industry-first that unlocks our ability to launch our driverless trucking product,” he said.
“With this corridor’s launch, we’ve defined, refined and validated the framework for the expansion of our network with the largest partner ecosystem in the autonomous trucking industry.”
Commercial driverless operations are being targeted for late 2024.
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