Aurora Innovation, a California-based self-driving technology company announced it is collaborating, with Paccar to launch a commercial pilot of autonomous trucks hauling goods for package delivery firm FedEx. The Paccar trucks will be equipped with Aurora’s autonomous technology to haul FedEx loads between Dallas and Houston on one of America’s busiest routes, the 500-mile round trip I-45 corridor. The pilot marks the next phase of a partnership among the three companies that was announced in January.
The trucks will operate autonomously, with a backup safety driver. This move is a progression for Aurora having previously partnered with Paccar to provide autonomous solutions for the commercial trucking industry.
“There’s nothing that will be more transformational” to the trucking industry’s economics than the possibility of removing drivers, said Paccar chief technology officer John Rich.
“None of this stuff can really be an afterthought add-on to a truck,” he said. “It’s got to be integrated from the start and developed in parallel.”
The fleet of a dozen trucks, owned by Aurora, will be used for “several trips per week” on the 500-mile round-trip route while hauling real, revenue-earning loads, an Aurora spokesperson said.
The Paccar-built trucks are fitted with driverless technology, which includes sensors, cameras, radars and additional software. Rich said Paccar has a dedicated team working with Aurora and has designed the Peterbilt 579s with additional software capabilities that Paccar vehicles normally don’t have, allowing them to be controlled by a computer.
The trucks also include backups for critical systems like steering, braking and power supply that kick in if the driverless technology ever fails.
What about the drivers?
Rebecca Yeung, vice president of innovation and advanced technology at FedEx, said the company is less interested in applying autonomous trucking to routes that are currently operated by its own drivers and more interested in using it for routes that are currently outsourced to third parties.
For example, FedEx outsources routes to third parties when it can’t keep up with shipment volumes during surges in business. “Our driver is our biggest asset,” said Yeung, asserting that drivers and autonomous technology are “complementary in nature, not conflicting in nature.”
Rich said he thinks displacement of trucking jobs is likely to occur, but it is also likely to “increase quality of life for a lot of drivers,” given how difficult trucking jobs are. “These jobs are hard because they’re away from families, and they’re fairly disruptive to your life if you go on the road for six weeks,” he said. “… It’s just not a popular job for younger generations in American society.”
Aurora, working with partners PACCAR and Volvo Group, aims to launch its autonomous system in heavy-duty trucks without a safety driver in late 2023. Aurora said it hopes to begin selling its autonomous trucking infrastructure commercially in select states by late 2023 without a safety driver.
Aurora (Nasdaq: AUR) is delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly to make transportation safer, increasingly accessible, and more reliable and efficient than ever before. The Aurora Driver is a self-driving system designed to operate multiple vehicle types, from freight-hauling semi-trucks to ride-hailing passenger vehicles, and underpins Aurora Horizon and Aurora Connect, its driver-as-a-service products for trucking and ride-hailing. Aurora is working with industry leaders across the transportation ecosystem, including Toyota, FedEx, Volvo Trucks, PACCAR, Uber, Uber Freight, U.S. Xpress, Werner, Covenant, and Schneider.
From the TradersCommunity News Desk