Amazon funded self-driving start-up Aurora has begun its on-road testing in Dallas, Texas, in addition to the already on-going testing in California and Pennsylvania. With the on-going pandemic and the need for social distancing, the company prioritized the on-road testing of its self-driving fleet. With the rising demand for activities to be contactless, testing for self-driven trucks and cars will lead to an evolutionary change in the delivery of goods and ride-hailing business.
Aurora has decided to bring a small fleet of Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Class-8 trucks to the Dallas Fort Worth area and begin testing their hardware and software on the fleet in a few weeks. Aurora has first planned to test minivans in the streets and then add the autonomous trucks on the road.
In the official blog post of Aurora, the company also mentioned the integration of Aurora’s FirstLight Lidar in the fleet. FirstLight Lidar is the technology architected and engineered by Aurora, which helps the next-gen vehicle’s perception system enhance their visibility of farther objects with high precision. Aurora has claimed that the FirstLight Lidar technology can help them attain enormous competitive advantages in the industry. Aurora has been performing rigorous research on the on-road etiquettes of drivers. They have incorporated the Aurora Driver in six types of vehicles that perform flawlessly in all the external conditions. These self-driven vehicles should be brought on the road by the end of the year.
“Our early focus on the complexities of surface street driving accelerates our ability to handle the hardest aspects of trucking,” mentioned in Aurora’s official blog post. The company began focusing on commercial vehicle and Robo-taxis, but it’s focus shifted to trucking and logistics, as mention in an official blog posted by the company in October 2019. The company has decided to seize the truck market before entering the consumer vehicle market, as that is the largest market and best unit economics in the current scenario.
“Our work in Texas is also additive; experiences navigating new routes in Texas and preparing our system for safe highway driving are applicable and beneficial to the broader rollout of the Aurora Driver,” stated by the company in the official blog post. Reasons for selection of Texas as the testing ground was because of the massive volume of the public road, pro-business policies, and the autonomous vehicle state friendly regulations. Because of all the available facilities for AV testing, Texas has been a hub for on-road testing of self-driving vehicles.
The company is currently under the leadership of Chris Urmson, lead engineer for Google’s self-driving project and founder of Aurora, and co-founders Sterling Anderson, who led the Tesla Model X project and Drew Bagnell who has experience in the autonomous vehicle at Uber. In the previous year, Amazon invested in Aurora and TROW (T. Rowe Price Group Inc.) and Sequoia Capital around $530 million, making the company valuation figure up to $2.5 billion.