DALLAS — Autonomous trucking technology company Aurora Innovation will begin deploying 20 driverless big rigs hauling 100 loads per week on a dedicated route along Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston in 2024.
“The Aurora Driver is now Feature Complete — meaning all policy disengagements have been removed, and we have implemented all of the technical capabilities it needs to power trucks built for it in commercial service on our Dallas to Houston launch lane,” Aurora Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson announced in a Monday, April 3, posting on the company’s website. “We call this autonomous trucking service Aurora Horizon.”
Anderson wrote that the milestone marks the culmination of six years of research and development.
The company is currently hauling freight more than 30 times a week across Texas. It has freight-hauling partnerships with FedEx, Werner Enterprises, Schneider and Uber Freight on Texas routes from Dallas to El Paso and Dallas to Houston. These pilot routes use a safety driver in the front seat, but now the company says it’s just about ready to roll without a soul on board.
While previous versions of the Aurora Driver were equipped to detect and operate safely through a variety of more common roadway and weather conditions, the refined Beta 6.0 adds the ability to detect and respond to some uncommon and infrequent scenarios it could encounter, such as sudden heavy rain, snow or fog that compromises visibility, high winds that compromise control of the truck and collisions with other road users or objects, according to the company.
“When these conditions are moderate, the Aurora Driver will slow down, not dissimilar from what an experienced human driver would do,” Anderson wrote, noting that fog can affect the Aurora Driver’s ability to see clearly beyond a few hundred meters. When conditions become bad enough that the Aurora Driver can no longer safely and confidently drive through them even at reduced speed, it will begin searching for a safe place to stop and will alert the Command Center.
“Similarly, if, despite defensive driving, the Aurora Driver perceives it has been in a collision, we’ve trained it to evaluate several possible courses of action, navigate to a safe stopping location and inform a Command Center specialist,” Anderson wrote.
Testing at private tracks also trained Aurora Driver to respond safely when it detects a collision, according to the company.
“As Aurora Driver-powered fleets proliferate in our customers’ respective networks, so will the rate at which they encounter interesting and unexpected roadway conditions and circumstances,” Anderson wrote. “By designing the Aurora Driver to detect and respond to the unexpected now, we’re working to ensure it exceeds the rigorous safety, efficiency, and reliability standards of major carriers and fleets when we deploy commercially.”
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 less common scenarios involving scattered road debris or emergency vehicles and even rare events such as collisions or extreme weather, according to the company.
“With the release of Aurora Driver Beta 6.0 and the achievement of our Feature Complete milestone, we’ve completed the development of our self-driving system architecture,” Anderson wrote. “Our focus now turns to assembling the evidence required to close the Aurora Driver Safety Case in anticipation of launching our product commercially next year. As we collect this evidence, we’ll continue to refine and validate the Aurora Driver’s performance and expand our pilot operations, which are designed to give us a clear look at the totality of our customers’ operations and our product’s role and influence in them, and allow our partners to integrate autonomous trucks into their commercial operations at ever-greater scale. To return to the symphony analogy, our next phase fine-tunes the dynamics of our performance in preparation for the grand opening. I can’t wait for you to see it.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.