The Swedish truck maker is the last major manufacturer to pick a technology partner for autonomous operations. Volvo and Aurora quietly worked on a software system beginning in early 2018. They created a prototype truck late that year.
“Despite our early progress, our shared values and our common goal, both Volvo and Aurora had work to do before we could field a serious product in high-speed trucking,” Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s co-founder and chief product officer, wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
“Aurora’s sensor suite, like the rest of the industry, could not robustly see far enough to safely drive a Class 8 truck at highway speeds. And Volvo needed to lay the groundwork for an autonomous solutions business.”
The creation of the Volvo Autonomous Solutions group in December 2019 prepared the way for Tuesday’s announcement. Former finance executive Nils Jaeger leads the unit. He reports to Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt.
Among Jaeger’s first tasks was helping complete the $2.3 billion sale of Volvo’s UD Trucks unit to Isuzu Motors. UD Trucks demonstrated a Level 4 truck maneuvering on a sugar plantation in Japan’s Hokkaido Province in August 2019.
Trucks as a service model
The first commercial product using Aurora Driver software will be tailored to autonomous hub-to-hub use in North America. Trucks will be driven by a human to a freeway on-ramp, then switch to autonomous mode until the prescribed exit where a human driver would retake control.
Volvo envisions a trucking-as-a-services offering. It would include transport logistics to operational support, servicing and maintenance, and internet cloud support for dispatching and routing.
“Creating a viable autonomous on-highway offering requires close partnerships with both customers and tech partners to develop the needed capabilities,” Jaeger said in a press release.
“Aurora is already a leading force in autonomous systems, and its integrated self-driving stack, software, hardware and data services platform combine to offer a clear path towards efficient and safe on-highway solutions in the medium term.”
No timing was announced for when the self-driving trucks would be on the road.
Aurora’s plate gets fuller
Aurora’s plate continues to fill with projects. It acquired Uber’s troubled self-driving Advanced Technologies Group in December 2020. The PACCAR deal was announced in January.