Announced Volvo has partnered with self-driving startup Aurora on a new family of fully autonomous trucks, the two companies announced.
The companies said the deal between Volvo and Aurora – which was founded by former executives from Google, Tesla and Uber – is a long-term partnership spanning several years.
The collaboration marks the latest partnership between a manufacturer and an emerging independent driving technology company, as the industry continues to slowly advance into the future with more trucks and autonomous passenger cars crossing the road.
Aurora has been testing its Aurora Driver hardware and software suite in its experimental fleet of minivans and Category 8 trucks since last year.
And unlike its competitors, who focus heavily on self-driving vehicle applications, the company said its first commercial service would be in the trucking business.
“Creating an independent and viable highway offering requires close partnerships with both customers and technical partners to develop the required capabilities,” Volvo said.
“This partnership brings our goal of transportation as a service the closest significant step and speeds up our commercial offering of applications from center to hub in North America,” she added.
Aurora has so far raised $ 690 million in funding, and co-founder and CEO (Chris Urmson) is welcomed thanks to his work helping lead the self-driving car initiative from Google.
The company’s co-founder Sterling Anderson also helped lead the Tesla Model X project.
The company raised half a billion dollars last year in a financing round led by Amazon, it also acquired the independent division of Uber, and teamed up with Toyota to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles, with them operating for the first time across the road by the end of 2021.
Volvo, the second-largest manufacturer of semi-heavy trucks, is gradually adding more partially autonomous features to its trucks, but has not yet made a deal to build fully driverless delivery vehicles.
Long-distance trucking is likely to be one of the first broad applications of autonomous driving technologies.
And there are widespread concerns in the trucking industry that autonomous technology could lead to massive displacement among truck drivers.
A 2017 study found that automated trucks could reduce driver demand by 50 to 70 percent in the United States and Europe by 2030, leaving 4.4 million professional drivers out of 6.4 million drivers on the two continents neglected.
These concerns are increasing as tech companies introduce eye-catching, uncomputer prototypes designed to completely take the driver out of the equation.
There has been a flurry of partnerships and other corporate deals in recent years in the emerging driverless trucking industry, especially as the Corona pandemic casts doubt on the long-term viability of using autonomous vehicles to transport passengers.
Well-known players such as Daimler said they are joining Waymo, while newcomers such as TuSimple, Ike, Embark and Plus are working towards completely driverless trucks.