Aurora, Volvo Group join forces on self-driving trucks

Industry

Aurora’s self-driving truck program continues rolling.

Two months after inking one big partnership, the company has added another. On Tuesday morning, Aurora and Volvo Group unveiled plans to commercialize trucks in a hub-to-hub service operating across North America.

There is not yet a specific time frame for deploying fleets of the Class 8 trucks. Volvo said it was a “long-term partnership” that spans “several years.” Financial terms were not disclosed.

Together, the two companies intend to pursue a strategy in which trucks operate between transfer hubs located alongside highways. Aurora’s self-driving system will handle the highway miles; a human driver will drive the trucks from these truckports on surface streets to warehouses.

Such an approach offers “a clear path toward efficient and safe on-highway solutions in the medium term,” said Nils Jaeger, president of Volvo Autonomous Solutions, the automaker’s self-driving division.

The tie-up comes two months after Aurora established a partnership with truck manufacturer PACCAR. That relationship, in which the two companies are integrating Aurora’s virtual driver onto Kenworth and Peterbuilt trucks, continues to evolve in parallel to the Volvo deal, according to an Aurora spokesperson.

With PACCAR and Volvo now aboard, Aurora has forged partnerships with two of the three largest trucking manufacturers in the U.S.

The possibility of a partnership with Volvo had simmered for three years. Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s chief product officer and co-founder, said the two companies actually built their first truck together in 2018, a faded-green vehicle nicknamed Pistachio.

But the companies opted not to proceed until Aurora’s self-driving system developed the ability to perceive the road environment and objects in its path at greater distances. The following spring, Aurora acquired Blackmore, a Montana lidar company that provided Aurora with sensors with a range greater than 300 meters. Last month, Aurora acquired OURS Technology, another lidar company which executives say will help them build lidar units at scale.

With that groundwork in place, Aurora and Volvo could formalize their long-term plans.

“Our partnership with Volvo has been a long time coming and hits the ground running,” Anderson wrote in a blog post. “We’ve built the right technology and Volvo’s built the right framework. Together, we’re excited to create and commercialize a powerful set of autonomous solutions for the massive and important trucking market.”

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