Aurora Innovation Inc. has signed up its third truckload carrier this year to partner on possible deployment of its autonomous vehicle technology.
In the latest transaction, Aurora (NASDAQ: AUR) said it had agreed with Covenant Logistics (NASDAQ: CVLG) on what it described as a “collaboration to explore ways to optimize Covenant’s long-haul operations with Aurora’s autonomous trucking product.”
The deal with Covenant comes on the heels of similar announcements of collaborations with Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN) in April and U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX) in February. Those came after cooperative agreements were signed last year with FedEx and Uber Freight.
A spokesperson for Aurora said this is Covenant’s first entry into the autonomous trucking field.
She said the work that will be undertaken with Covenant is most similar to what Aurora is doing with U.S. Xpress.
“We’ll be focused on identifying the optimal deployment strategies for autonomous technology in Covenant’s commercial operations,” she said in an email to FreightWaves. “This includes identifying the busiest hauls where the Aurora Driver can make the biggest difference, exploring how to best integrate Aurora Beacon, our mission control center, and teaming up to educate the industry about the benefits of autonomous technology.”
But there is a significant difference with U.S. Xpress. That company had already made a large foray into the autonomous vehicle space through its joint activities with TuSimple. U.S. Xpress is an investor in TuSimple (NASDAQ: TSP), it serves as an adviser, and it is probable that it will be a customer for the Class 8 tractors that TuSimple is developing with Navistar (NYSE: NAV).
In its prepared statement announcing the collaboration, Aurora said its goals for the tie-up with Covenant are: “identifying the lanes where the Aurora Driver can make the biggest impact while improving driver quality of life; optimizing fuel efficiency and maximizing the uptime of Covenant’s fleet with Aurora Horizon, built for 24/7/365 operation; [and] collaborating on how to effectively educate the transportation and logistics industry on the benefits of autonomous technology, especially on long-haul lanes.”
In the company’s statement, Joey Hogan, president of Covenant, said, “We believe this technology has the potential to optimize operations and reduce fuel consumption while also helping our drivers, both in safety and quality of life.”
Disclosure: FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller retains ownership of U.S. Xpress shares through his family trust.