Volvo Integrates Aurora Driver on Autonomous VNL Model

Volvo VNL prototype of an autonomous truck
A prototype of Volvo Trucks’ flagship longhaul VNL model was integrated with the Aurora Driver autonomous technology. (Volvo Group)

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Volvo Autonomous Solutions announced its first major steps toward the autonomous Volvo VNL model in North America, drawing on its partnership with Aurora Innovation Inc., a self-driving vehicle technology company.

A prototype of Volvo Trucks’ flagship longhaul VNL model was integrated with the Aurora Driver autonomous technology, according to the Gothenburg, Sweden-based company, a unit of Volvo Group.

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Aurora describes its technology as an “industry-leading sensor suite, including FirstLight Lidar, that can see farther, measure faster, and scale better” than other systems on the road.

“Volvo Autonomous Solutions is proud to take our first major steps toward the autonomous Volvo VNL in North America,” Nils Jaeger, president of Volvo Autonomous Solutions, said in a release. “Our long-standing customer base and their priorities are at the forefront of our path forward in shaping autonomous trucking. We strongly believe in a future in which safe, sustainable, efficient transport solutions are essential for any society to prosper, and autonomous commercial trucking is an important piece of that transformation.”

While research and development are supported by global team efforts, on-highway autonomous truck applications are being designed and engineered in the United States, in preparation for future production at Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley assembly plant in Dublin, Va.

“Although only a prototype at this stage, unveiling this now is a strong statement. From a look at the photos, this is a very sophisticated integration,” Richard Bishop told Transport Topics, referring to images sent with the release. He is an adviser to several autonomous trucking technology companies, including Locomation, Plus, Outrider and Robotic Research.

Bishop said the roof pod combined with the side mount lidar appear to provide a fully comprehensive view of the road ahead, as well as views of adjacent lanes to the rear.

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“The work complements Volvo Group’s internal work to apply automation to truck operations in confined environments,” like mining, ports and logistics centers, he added.

The transformation to autonomous builds on proven safety technologies already in place on the Volvo VNL, including dynamic steering and an automated transmission.

Next steps include, Volvo noted, identifying specific regions and routes to serve as the initial hubs for on-road highway testing.

Aurora is working with truck maker Paccar Inc., too, on autonomous truck technology.

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