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March 31, 2022 10:30 AM, EDT

Aurora Upgrades Autonomous Driving System

Aurora truckOne significant improvement to Aurora's self-driving technology includes more complex construction zone navigation. (Aurora via Twitter)

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Aurora Innovation Inc. is upgrading its self-driving truck technology as it prepares to commercialize its autonomous vehicle technology.

The Pittsburgh-based company said its Aurora Driver Beta 2.0, the second release of its integrated hardware and autonomy system, will provide more capability and improved mapping.



“Aurora Driver Beta 2.0 represents an incremental yet critical milestone in our path to launching an end-to-end autonomous product that can safely move both freight and people,” co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson said in a March 31 news release.

The upgrade includes changes that improve the system’s ability to navigate more complex highway and suburban settings. One significant improvement includes more complex construction zone navigation, which Aurora said is critical for hauling freight across the country. The system better handles lane changes and driving around the concrete barriers and cones common to construction sites.

It also accounts for temporary speed limit and lane closure signs, the presence of construction workers, vehicles, and trucks hauling oversize oil equipment and other gear.

 

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The system also can perform so-called Texas U-turns, a road configuration sometimes adjacent to interstates. It will become a critical task as carriers launch hub-to-hub autonomous trucking using facilities located by highways along major trucking routes.

The changes also include upgraded cameras with higher resolution, which combined with Lidar and imaging radar will allow the system to see the same level of detail at double the distance, improving obstacle detection. That allows the Aurora driving system to better account for distant objects such as road debris, vehicles on the shoulder and construction zones.

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Aurora said it had started a new commercial route in Texas between Fort Worth and El Paso, supported by daily map updates. That became possible because the improvements in its driving technology support the system’s capability to autonomously operate on longhaul routes such as Fort Worth to El Paso. Aurora said traveling that route autonomously is essential for the freight industry because it makes up the middle leg of the busy Atlanta-to-Los Angeles trucking lane.

Aurora, Waymo, TuSimple and other autonomous trucking developers are focusing their initial efforts on establishing networks in Texas and other parts of the Southwest because of favorable weather and regulatory conditions for the nascent industry.

Earlier this year, Aurora launched a pilot program with Uber Freight to move goods in Texas and integrate access to Uber Freight’s network with its overall autonomous trucking product suit, Aurora Horizon.

Chris Urmson

Urmson

“Whether we’re hauling goods for FedEx or preparing to take passengers to the airport, we’re seeing our technology evolve into a valuable product, “ Urmson said.

The Aurora Driver 2.0 makes up the technology behind the company’s Aurora Horizon, its trucking product, and Aurora Connect, its ride-hailing product, which will use minivans.

Aurora said it uses what it learns from trucks to adapt to minivans. Earlier this year, it debuted a Toyota Sienna minivan test fleet for use as robotaxis.

The company plans to sell its Aurora Horizon product via a robotic driver-as-a-service business model that will offer fleets the ability to purchase vehicles powered by the Aurora Driver system, subscribe to use Aurora Driver and use Aurora-certified fleet service partners to operate autonomous mobility and logistics services.

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