In an exciting development, Aurora and automotive supplier Continental have successfully completed the initial phase of their ambitious project, investing over $300 million to mass-produce hardware for autonomous commercial trucks. Breaking the news just ahead of the CES 2024 tech trade show in Las Vegas, the companies proudly announced the finalization of the design and system architecture for an autonomous vehicle hardware kit. Additionally, they revealed the blueprint for a fallback system, a secondary computer capable of taking over operations in case of a failure.
Moving Beyond the Blueprint: A Sneak Peek into the Future
Although this might seem like a small step, it’s a crucial and intricate one in their extensive journey. The hardware comprises an array of components, including radar, cameras, lidar, automated driving control units, and high-performance computers, all working seamlessly with software to enable driverless semi-trucks to navigate roads independently.
With this milestone accomplished, Continental is set to embark on developing prototypes, gearing up for production slated for 2027. Initial hardware versions will undergo testing at Continental’s new facility in New Braunfels, Texas, over the next year, with validation, including hardware-software integration on a fleet of trucks, expected to begin by 2026. Notably, Aurora has collaborations with truck manufacturers Paccar and Volvo Group.
The ultimate objective is to produce a robust, automotive-grade hardware system capable of withstanding the harsh environmental conditions experienced by long-haul trucks daily. Reliability, easy maintenance, and cost-effectiveness are essential criteria for this mass-produced hardware system, with the companies aiming to manufacture thousands of units.
Aurora’s co-founder and CEO, Chris Urmson, emphasized the significance of finalizing the hardware design, considering it a meaningful step towards establishing compelling unit economics for the Aurora Driver. Urmson believes this is crucial for the company’s long-term profitability and sustainable business growth.
Beyond 2027: Aurora’s Drive Towards Commercial Operations
Despite the production target set for 2027, Aurora isn’t waiting to make a significant impact. The company has plans to launch 19 driverless Class 8 trucks – meaning no human behind the wheel – by the end of 2024. Initially focusing on freight transportation between Dallas and Houston, Aurora aims to demonstrate the capabilities of their autonomous technology. While these initial trucks won’t feature the Aurora-Continental hardware kit, they are designed to meet automotive standards and operate safely without a driver. Aurora will continually update the hardware on this fleet over the next few years before transitioning to the scalable kit designed for mass production.