Apr 27, 2023 - Technology

Aurora picks Continental to help scale self-driving trucks

An Aurora truck.

Photo courtesy of Aurora

Aurora Innovation, one of a handful of surviving startups working on self-driving trucks, is turning to leading global auto supplier Continental to help bring its technology to market.

Why it matters: Aurora is a software company — it needs the expertise of a proven automotive giant to industrialize autonomous truck technology at profitable scale.

Details: The two companies announced overnight that they will work together to deliver the next generation of Aurora's flagship hardware and software system, the Aurora Driver, starting in 2027.

  • Continental will supply the hardware kits — including sensors, automated driving control units, high performance computers and telematics units — to truck manufacturers such as Paccar and Volvo Trucks.
  • Those manufacturers will integrate the hardware kits into trucks sold to freight haulers that want self-driving capability for their fleets.
  • Those carriers will then activate the Aurora Driver through a new subscription trucking service called Aurora Horizon.

Of note: Continental, with decades of experience in systems integration, will also supply customers with a new "fallback system," the companies said.

  • "In the unlikely event of a failure in the primary autonomy system, the fallback system is designed to ensure a driverless truck can continue the driving task until it reaches a safe position."
  • Continental will also be responsible for maintenance of the Aurora Driver kit over each truck's lifetime.

Between the lines: The deal represents a new hardware-as-a-service business model for the industry, the companies said.

  • Continental is making an upfront investment to produce the hardware kit at its new manufacturing facility in New Braunfels, Texas.
  • In turn, Aurora will pay Continental on a per-mile basis for vehicles operated by the Aurora Driver using the automated-driving kit.

Where it stands: Aurora is still validating its technology using backup drivers with a fleet of self-driving trucks.

  • The company expects to launch its fully driverless Aurora Horizon service by the end of 2024.
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