Aurora and Volvo Reveal New Self-Driving Truck for the Future

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A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and equipped with autonomous vehicle technology developed by Aurora Innovation — could be seen on public highways as early as this summer.

The Volvo VNL Autonomous truck, unveiled Monday evening at the ACT Expo in Las Vegas, is the result of a collaboration between Aurora and Volvo Autonomous Solutions. Aurora plans to begin using these Volvo self-driving trucks to haul freight in the coming months. The trucks will operate in autonomous mode but will have a human safety operator on board to take control if necessary.

Later this year, the company aims to announce pilot programs with customers utilizing the Volvo VNL Autonomous truck, according to an Aurora spokesperson. Volvo has already started manufacturing an initial test fleet of these self-driving trucks at its New River Valley assembly plant in Virginia.

This reveal comes as Aurora pushes towards its goal of commercializing self-driving trucks by the end of 2024. Initially, the company plans to transport freight between Dallas and Houston using up to 20 driverless Class 8 trucks — this time with no human operators. Aurora has not disclosed whether the inaugural driverless fleet will include trucks made by Volvo or its other partner Paccar.

The road to commercialization is crucial for Aurora, one of the few autonomous trucking companies remaining. Last year, Waymo Via halted its self-driving trucking program, and TuSimple exited the U.S. market to focus on Asia. Aurora, too, has faced high capital costs in developing and launching commercial autonomous trucks. In January, the company laid off 3% of its workforce to reduce expenses ahead of its commercial launch.

Industry consolidation has left Aurora with fewer rivals. Einride, Torc, and Kodiak Robotics, which recently revealed its self-driving big rig, are among the few competitors left.

The partnership with Volvo, which began in March 2021, is a key part of Aurora’s strategy to commercialize. Aurora has launched pilot programs with logistics companies like FedEx, Ryder, Schneider, and Uber Freight. In January, Aurora and automotive supplier Continental completed the first phase of a project exceeding $300 million to mass-produce hardware for commercial self-driving trucks. The design and system architecture for an AV hardware kit have been finalized, along with a blueprint for a secondary computer that can take over operations in case of a failure. Although the Continental hardware kit won’t be available in Aurora trucks until 2027, the Volvo VNL will still be equipped with comprehensive safety features, according to the company.

The Volvo truck includes redundant systems for steering, braking, communication, computation, power management, energy storage, and vehicle motion management, according to Aurora. The truck also features the Aurora Driver, a self-driving system with dual computers, self-driving software, in-house lidar that can detect objects over 1,300 feet away, high-resolution cameras, and imaging radar.

“Our platform engineering approach prioritizes safety by incorporating high-assurance redundancy systems designed to mitigate potential emergency situations,” said Shahrukh Kazmi, chief product officer at Volvo Autonomous Solutions, in a statement. “We built the Volvo VNL Autonomous from the ground up, integrating these redundancy systems to ensure that every safety-critical component is intentionally duplicated, significantly enhancing both safety and reliability.”

Once Aurora and Volvo have validated this platform, they plan to initiate fully driverless operations with a “modest-sized fleet of trucks,” according to the Aurora spokesperson, who did not offer a specific timeline. Over the next few years, Aurora and Volvo expect to begin high-volume production of the Volvo VNL integrated with the Aurora Driver.

Rebecca Bellan
Rebecca Bellan
Rebecca covers transportation. She’s interested in all things micromobility, EVs, AVs, smart cities, AI, sustainability and more. Previously, she covered social media for Forbes.com, and her work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, i-D (Vice) and more. Rebecca studied journalism and history at Boston University.

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