The world’s fascination with driverless cars isn’t dying any time soon. Autonomous trucks and vehicles have been in the news cycle for a couple of years now and tech startups are inching closer and closer to using driverless tech in commercial vehicles worldwide. Aurora Innovation Inc., a self-driving tech company based in Mountain View, CA, has quickly established itself as one of the marketplace’s leaders, and for good reason.
Texas has emerged as a hotbed for self-driving tech companies – Waymo and Kodiak Robotics currently operate in the area – and Aurora is looking to further assert its presence in the Lone Star State. According to Transport Topics, “[Aurora] is expanding its relationships with shippers and motor carriers as it works to refine the Aurora Driver technology to fit their vehicles’ needs and handle highway traffic.”
Aurora’s tech is still a work in progress though. As of now, their trucks still require a safety driver in the cab. As time passes, they’ll make the tweaks their trucks need for complex highway maneuvers, e.g. entering and exiting freeways, lane changes and merges, etc. For now, Aurora’s early tests in Texas involve moving snack foods for customers. According to a company statement, Aurora plans on opening their commercial pilots with shippers and carriers this summer – a move that will allow them to move a wider range of goods throughout the country.
As of right now, Aurora’s “driverless” trucks currently have a safety driver in the cab. However, that could change as soon as 2023. In fact, they plan on fully autonomous commercial operations by 2024-2025. How is all this happening so soon? Well, for one, Aurora’s made some timely moves. According to TechCrunch, Aurora acquired two lidar companies (OURS & Blackmore). Lidars – light detection and ranging radars – are key components of self-driving trucks. In fact, Aurora claims that “its technology provides the long-range visibility needed to be able to spot hazards with enough time to stop or slow down.”
Aurora also plans on leveraging Texas’ expansive highway network to fine-tune their hi-def digital mapping in the area and ultimately expand their operations throughout the Southwest corridor. In addition to that, Aurora has signed deals with Volvo and Paccar – two of the three largest trucking manufacturers in the world – and plans to integrate its self-driving software in both companies’ upcoming fleets.
For many business owners, autonomous commercial trucks have obvious appeal – as far as efficiency and profitability go. According to Transport Topics, “Aurora said it takes about three days to deliver goods from Dallas to Los Angeles with humans at the wheel. But when trucks operating with its Aurora Driver technology are fully deployed, it said the 1,500-mile trip will take less than 24 hours.”
What do you think? Is a driverless semi-truck truly viable before 2025? Is this corporate greed robbing truckers of their jobs? Drop a comment to let us know.