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May 18, 2022 4:15 PM, EDT

Aurora, FedEx Expand Texas Autonomous Routes

AuroraA FedEx trailer on a truck with Aurora's technology. (Aurora Innovation Inc.)

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Aurora Innovation Inc. and FedEx have expanded their autonomous trucking partnership to include freight hauling between terminals in Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas.

They have been using self-driving trucks for daily cargo runs between Dallas and Houston.

Pittsburgh-based Aurora said the expansion allows it to cover another critical trucking lane. Fort Worth to El Paso makes up the middle leg of the Atlanta to Los Angeles route, which the company said is among the busiest trucking routes in the United States.

“In six months of working with FedEx, we’ve safely, reliably and efficiently transported packages for tens of thousands of FedEx customers,” Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer, said in a May 18 news release. “This lane expansion came ahead of schedule and we’re delighted to continue building the future of trucking with one of the country’s biggest and most important transportation companies.”

According to Aurora, the companies have completed 60,000 miles of trucking with no safety incidents.

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Aurora has been a like-minded collaborator, helping us learn from and grow our autonomous trucking solutions, said Rebecca Yeung, FedEx’s corporate vice president of operations science and advanced technology.

Yeung said FedEx plans “to test further integration of autonomous technology into our operations to build a collaborative, robust network of solutions to respond to growing customer demand.”

Aurora said it had installed its self-driving system, or Aurora Driver, on a new Peterbilt 579 tractor to make the 600-mile Fort Worth-El Paso trip weekly. It will increase the frequency of trips in the coming months. Although the truck drives itself, Aurora has a safety driver in the cab to monitor operations.

Earlier in May, Aurora launched a collaboration with Covenant Logistics to refine a self-driving truck system that could robotically emulate the speed of human team driving. Covenant will test Aurora’s robotic driver-as-a-service business model. It bundles the Aurora Driver and the use of Aurora-certified fleet service partners to operate autonomous mobility and logistics services.

Aurora also has test programs and collaborations running with Uber Freight, Werner and U.S. Xpress. In addition to Paccar, owner of the Peterbilt and Kenworth brands, Aurora is working on autonomous driving projects with Volvo Trucks and Toyota Motor Corp.

Waymo, Embark, TuSimple and other autonomous trucking developers also are focusing early efforts and test programs on routes in Texas. The combination of a favorable regulatory environment for self-driving vehicle development and sunny weather make the state a good location for testing the technology, the companies have said.

FedEx ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America

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