Driverless Tech Startup Aurora Adds Volvo to Trucking Partners

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Aurora Innovation Inc., a Silicon Valley-based driverless technology startup, is adding another big name to its list of partners to develop self-driving trucks: Volvo Group.

Volvo’s autonomous solutions unit has agreed to a work with Aurora toward deploying trucks without drivers on highways. The two companies envision trucks operating in a hub-to-hub model with full self-driving engaged on expressways between transfer hubs.

“We’re excited that Volvo has selected us to be their autonomy partner,” Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s chief product officer, said in an interview.

Driverless Tech Startup Aurora Adds Volvo to Trucking Partners

The startup now boasts relationships with two of the three largest truck manufacturers. Volvo joins Paccar Inc., which partnered with Aurora in January for a similar development deal. Daimler AG’s truck business entered into a partnership last year with rival Waymo, the autonomous-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc.

Aurora and Waymo are two of several contenders in the race to commercialize self-driving technology along with Amazon.com Inc.-owned Zoox Inc. and General Motors Co.’s Cruise LLC investment. Aurora Chief Executive Officer Chris Urmson led the autonomous team at an earlier iteration of Waymo, and Anderson previously directed Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot driver-assistance efforts.

Staggered Development

The partnerships with Volvo and Paccar are part of the Mountain View, California-based startup’s staggered approach to self-driving. Aurora plans to first focus on highway trucking, then follow up with last-mile commercial goods delivery applications and ultimately deploy robotaxi passenger cars.

It inked a deal last month with Toyota Motor Corp. and its supplier Denso Corp. toward mass producing autonomous vehicles and launching them on ride-hailing networks, including Uber Technologies Inc.’s, over the next few years.

Driverless Tech Startup Aurora Adds Volvo to Trucking Partners

Last week Toyota announced it will join forces with Isuzu Motors Ltd. and subsidiary Hino Motors Ltd. to develop electric and driverless trucks and buses. It’s unclear if that will involve Aurora’s technology. The Japanese automaker has invested in Nuro, a competitor of Aurora, in an apparent bid to spread its bets on self-driving know-how.

Aurora’s technology relies on innovations in lidar, which uses lasers to build a three-dimensional image of the surrounding landscape and help plot routes around obstacles in the road. The startup is a big fan of what’s known as FMCW, or frequency-modulated, continuous-wave lidar, which is designed to allow vehicles to “see” further and faster and is critical at highway speeds.

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