Aurora Adds Fourth Fleet Partner for Autonomous Pilot

By Roger Gilroy, Transport Topics

Autonomous technology developer Aurora Innovation Inc. and Schneider National Inc. have announced a commercial pilot effort to haul freight for Schneider’s customers with Aurora Driver, Aurora’s autonomous technology.

Under the pilot, Aurora will begin weekly autonomous hauls beginning the week of Aug. 1 between Dallas and Houston, with Aurora vehicle operators on board the trucks. Load frequency is expected to increase as Schneider expands its relationship with Aurora, both in terms of volume of hauls and the lanes, the companies said in an Aug. 1 news release.

Aurora said the arrangement will be instrumental in helping advance Aurora Horizon, its subscription-based autonomous trucking product.

“Preparing Aurora Horizon for prime time with Schneider spring-loads our ability to deploy our product at scale in the years to come,” Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s co-founder and chief product officer, said in a release.

Schneider ranks No. 8 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Pittsburgh-based Aurora said this latest pilot is intended to strengthen and prepare Aurora Horizon in three areas ahead of its launch:

  • Autonomy at scale — Aurora Driver learns from every load it hauls autonomously.
  • Vehicle readiness — Weekly hauls allow Aurora to test the durability of its next-generation trucks, based on the Peterbilt 579, for commercial operation and deployment.
  • Premium service — The commercial pilot enables Schneider to play a critical role in testing and validating Aurora’s product and service.

The Schneider agreement is the fourth pilot program Aurora has in progress to carry loads autonomously. It operates terminals in South Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and El Paso to support multiple commercial lanes. It also hauls freight for Werner, FedEx and Uber Freight. “Understanding more about an autonomous future is the logical next step to build a network that continues to deliver the best service for our customers,” said Rob Reich, chief administrative officer at Schneider.

Aurora also collaborates with U.S. Xpress and Covenant to design deployment strategies for autonomous technology, in addition to manufacturer agreements.

“We have OEM partnerships with both Paccar, Peterbilt’s parent company, and Volvo Trucks North America, who both work with us through the Aurora Driver Development Program to develop deeply integrated, heavy-duty trucks that meet the exacting requirements of the Aurora Driver. We also work on the sales, service and support model that carriers and private fleets will rely on,” an Aurora spokesperson told TT.

“Together, we’re identifying the lanes that can most benefit from early deployment of Aurora Horizon, explore application programming interface integrations into their platforms to enhance dispatching and dynamic routing, and model where these trucks can offset unmet demand,” the spokesperson added. “With both groups of partners, our goal is to build a future where goods are moved by both human drivers and autonomous trucks.”

Aurora is also applying autonomous technology in passenger cars.