Sep 28, 2022 - Technology

Self-driving trucks are learning to circumvent major road debris

Illustration of torn and split sofa with highlighter texture

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If you've ever swerved to avoid an obstacle on the highway, you'll understand why Aurora Innovation is teaching its self-driving trucks to be prepared for anything — including shredded tires or errant sofas.

Why it matters: Road debris is fairly common and can be dangerous, especially when vehicles are moving at highway speeds.

  • Nearly 37% of all deaths in road debris collisions result from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

What's happening: The latest beta version of Aurora's self-driving truck tech, called Aurora Driver, is trained to identify and steer clear of debris on the road to avoid swerving collisions at highway speeds.

  • It can also navigate construction zones with temporary lane markings and identify vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.

The bottom line: Autonomous vehicles have to share the road with other cars, cyclists and pedestrians, but also things that shouldn't be there — like a piece of furniture that fell off the back of a truck.

What to watch: Aurora aims to launch fully driverless semi trucks by the end of 2024.

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