FedEx, PACCAR, and Aurora announced an “industry-first collaboration” for real-deal autonomous semi truck deliveries in Texas. The first commercial pilot will “regularly and autonomously” haul FedEx deliveries between Dallas and Houston along the I-45 corridor. That 500-mile round trip will include a safety driver (just in case something goes amiss), and initiates Aurora’s latest development phase: “Refine and Pilot.”
The five phases in the Aurora Driver Development Program are: Lay the Foundation, Define & Build, Refine & Pilot, Validate, Launch & Expand. In the Refine & Pilot phase, the company’s outline described pulling “real loads in commercially representative ways” in order to get customer feedback and gain real world experience. In this phase, Aurora aims to see the full picture for customers and their preferences, “even as they relate to non-autonomy-specific characteristics.”
Aurora announced today that these first trips will have a safety driver – but not for long. “At the end of 2023,” they suggest, they’ll launch their trucking business for real, and “haul loads autonomously between terminals without a safety driver.”
The PACCAR Autonomous Vehicle Platform (AVP) and Aurora are creating what they call a “deeply integrated self-driving truck” to move their entire operation forward into real-life on-the-road operations.
Above you’ll also see an Aurora Driver Hyperlapse video “on Texas Roads.” This demonstration shows how the Aurora Driver system navigates through a variety of on-road circumstances, including highways, intersections, surface streets, merging, lane changing, and avoiding disabled vehicles.
The most important element here is safety, of course – for the safety driver (for now), and all the drivers and pedestrians around the autonomous truck now and in the future. As Elon Musk once said, “In the distant future, they may outlaw driven cars because they’re too dangerous.” He likened the situation to elevator operators, and how elevators no longer need said human operators because they work without the need for manual operation. Deliveries to your local FedEx location might very well be sent by automatically driven trucks – then to your doorstep via robot – sooner than you think!