Aurora AUR Werner Enterprises WERN self-driving truck in Texas

06 January 2022, US, Las Vegas: Robotic truck company Aurora shows off a self-propelled semi-truck at the CES Tech Show in Las Vegas. Interest in autonomous freight transport has increased in the Corona epidemic.

Andrej Sokolo | Photo Alliance | Getty Images

Self-driving startup Aurora Innovation has been tracking in Texas.

Aurora announced Wednesday that it has begun a pilot test of self-propelled tractor-trailers with logistics giant Warner Enterprise. Aurora’s self-driving system – called the Aurora Driver – will operate Werner trucks on about 600 miles of highway between Fort Worth and El Paso.

This special stretch between Atlanta and Los Angeles is an important part of a heavy travel truck route. But according to the company, it’s a monotonous nine-hour drive that human truck drivers would rather avoid – making it an ideal use case for the Aurora driver system, which never bothers.

For now, Aurora-powered trucks will have a human operator on board, ready to take it if needed. The Aurora system is also not being asked to handle any tight urban driving situations.

Despite the limitations, the test is an important step in Aurora’s driverless technology at a time when trucking companies like Warner are struggling with a nationwide shortage of qualified human truck drivers.

Warner’s CEO, Derek Leathers, was quick to point out that the company’s goal is not to completely replace human drivers. Instead, he sees, self-driving systems like the Aurora will be able to handle routes that Warner’s human drivers would rather avoid, while expanding the company’s power during busy times.

“We look forward to building a hybrid world where drivers will continue to transport goods while autonomous trucks meet the growing demand,” said Leathers.

This is Warner’s first experience with autonomous trucks, but it’s not the Aurora driver’s first deployment on large rigs. FedEx and Uber Technologies’ tracking unit, Uber Freight, both run similar pilot programs with Aurora-powered heavy trucks. Aurora is testing its driver system with Toyota minivans on a ride-hailing fleet in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Aurora acquired Uber’s self-driving division in 2020.

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