FedEx Corp. will integrate Aurora Innovation’s high-autonomy software-equipped trucks from PACCAR Inc. into its linehaul logistics operations in Texas, the latest example of real-world testing of robot-driven trucks.
Aurora, a latecomer to autonomous trucking after focusing its efforts on autonomous ride-hailing, is trying to assume first-mover status, leapfrogging competitors targeting long-haul driverless trucks in 2024. Aurora is aiming to remove the driver from the cab of its trucks in late 2023.
Regardless of which company achieves driverless operations first, Level 4 autonomy is advancing quickly. Though it will be a decade or more before trucks operate widely without safety drivers, the startups pursuing autonomous trucking are previewing the likely future.
FedEx, Aurora and PACCAR claim the three-way collaboration among a logistics provider, autonomous technology developer and a truck manufacturer is an industry first. The human-supervised pilot running along FedEx’s Dallas-Houston parcel lanes on Interstate 45 will complete the nearly 500-mile round-trip route multiple times each week.
“This collaboration allows for the creation of a cohesive and integrated product and service,” Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s chief product officer, said in a press release Wednesday. “We believe there is no other credible way to deliver this complex and valuable technology at scale.”
Aurora plans to expand its coverage with FedEx over time, continuing to target the highest-volume routes where the Aurora Driver can make the most impact, the company said.
Aurora will book revenue during the pilot by charging a fee per mile driven. Competitor TuSimple Holdings (NASDAQ: TSP), which has focused solely on developing autonomous trucks, reported $1.5 million in revenue from autonomous freight hauling in the second quarter.
‘Built on innovation’
Commercial application of Aurora’s Driver technology is the latest addition to the FedEx portfolio of autonomous and robotics solutions amid record delivery volumes.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and we always anticipate what’s next to be future-ready,” said Rebecca Yeung, FedEx vice president of advanced technology and innovation.
PACCAR, the parent company of Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF Trucks, chose Aurora as its partner for Level 4 autonomous trucks in January. Aurora also is working on autonomous trucks for Volvo Group.
“This new commercial pilot collaboration demonstrates the excellent progress that PACCAR and Aurora are making in our strategic alliance,” said John Rich, PACCAR chief technology officer.