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    Aurora shines spotlight on autonomous truck tech, strategy ahead of SPAC merger – TechCrunch

    Texas Interstate Expressway 45The sign with “Aurora” in huge white letters on the top provides the mysterious message “A new driving method is imminent”.

    Of the thousands of drivers on this road, it’s hard to know what that means and what the aurora is. Self-driving car tech companies (along with some competitors) aren’t a common name, even though they aim to change the way people and luggage move from point A to point B forever.

    However, Aurora, which plans to enter the open market through a merger with a blank check company, has spotlighted its products this week with reporters, analysts, partners such as PACCAR, Toyota and Volvo, as well as existing and potential. Investors who have invited new companies can get on the autonomous truck and learn more about its technology. We also shared the latest operational information, including the launch of new route mapping and testing in Texas.

    The so-called “Aurora Illuminations” event was held at a time when it was auspicious for the company. Founded in 2017 by Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell, and Chris Urmson, Aurora has more than doubled its workforce to more than 1,600 in less than a year with the acquisition of Uber’s self-driving unit.

    The merger with special-purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners Y is now on the verge of becoming a publicly traded company with an implicit valuation of $ 13 billion. The transaction was announced and confirmed in July. TechCrunch’s previous report, I’m planning to go to a shareholder vote this year. If approved, Aurora will soon make its public debut on the Nasdaq. The company does not disclose any of these dates.

    It would be presumed and premature for Aurora to officially say “it did it.” However, the company has overcome many hurdles. In particular, it has begun its path to commercialization by raising significant capital, securing major partnerships and strengthening testing. It has also made great strides in the highly competitive autonomous truck industry, where other well-funded and partner companies are active, including small start-ups such as Waymo, listed TuSimple, Gatik and Kodiak Robotics. ..

    Progress report

    Aurora first landed in Texas a year ago. Today, along the route between Dallas, Palmer, and Houston terminals in Texas, using autonomous trucks (always with two safety drivers), at the makers of taxi spicy chips and snacks. I’m carrying luggage from a Barcel. The company also launched FedEx freight between Dallas and Houston as part of a pilot program announced earlier this month. According to FedEx, Aurora-powered packer trucks are used several times a week to complete a route of approximately 500 miles along Interstate 45.

    The plan is to add terminals to El Paso and San Antonio, expanding to Phoenix and Los Angeles to the west, Laredo to the south, and New Orleans to the east. Aurora’s envisioned network covers the western and eastern coasts, and ultimately the entire country.

    Aurora does not share when expecting to move across Texas. We have just begun testing the 630-mile route between El Paso and Dallas without cargo.

    According to co-founder and chief product officer Sterling Anderson, on the routes that carry goods, the company has always delivered within the allotted time frame.

    “This is an example of great and exciting operational excellence,” co-founder and CEO Chris Armson said in an interview at the event. “In the long run, if you can drive a vehicle without a driver, there is a dramatic leap because there are no service time limits.”

    Image credit: Aurora

    Ride

    TechCrunch’s two rides began at the South Dallas Terminal parking lot in Palmer, Texas.

    The truck is a customized Peterbilt 579 integrated with Aurora’s self-driving car system and in partnership with Paccar. The system, which the company calls the “Aurora Driver,” includes a camera, radar, and a combination of long-range and medium-range light detection and range-finding radar sensors called LIDAR.The long range rider was subsequently developed in-house Acquisition of Blackmore.. (Aurora has been around since then Second LIDAR company, Our technology. Medium range LIDAR sensors are from private suppliers.

    Behind the cabin is a huge computer with a cooling unit. Other displays are also in the cabin, including those showing the moving vehicle, its intended route, and the image classifications that took place along the way. There are two safety operators in the car. The so-called pilot holds a commercial truck driver’s license (CDL), and the co-pilot monitors and calls the desired route and acts as a spotter for other vehicles, pedestrians, or objects on the road. To do.

    Image credit: Kirsten Colossek

    “We’re not just looking at them as testers. Aurora’s partner and vice president of programming, Lia Theodosiou-Pisanelli, said in a preliminary safety briefing about technology and how it feels, as well as road rules. It also provides very good guidance and advice. Enter the truck. “For example, the truck driver does not do it. You turn in a wide direction. This is your way. This is your way. How it works. This is what other drivers expect. They also really understand the expectations of their customers. “

    All operators, who are Aurora employees rather than contract workers, receive weeks of training to perform vehicle control, defensive driving, and closed-track scenarios. Twelve “pilots” are on the track today after six to eight weeks of training. Others are in the pipeline.

    Both test rides began with the truck driving autonomously from the terminal lot to the frontage road, where it ramped to Interstate 45. The truck traveled about 13 miles along 45 before exiting, then turning left and traveling under the freeway. After the stop sign, the truck turned another left into the interstate highway and returned to the terminal. The round trip was about 28 miles.

    Image credit: Kirsten Colossek

    While it is difficult to provide a complete assessment of AV technology in this type of demonstration, it provides a snapshot of the system and, importantly, the type of “driver” that the enterprise is trying to develop.

    In the case of Aurora, the company takes a cautious approach. Even if the speed limit posted is 75 mph, the truck will not exceed 65 mph on the freeway. The truck also stays in the far right lane, except to provide space for merging vehicles or to overtake slower vehicles. Also, according to state law, if the vehicle is parked on the shoulder, it will always move to another lane.

    Aurora also “releases” to safety operators in active construction zones with workers, when emergency vehicles activate lights to approach, and in “crazy actors”, as Theodosio Pisanelli explains. That is, I instructed it to take over manual control.

    “Whenever we leave, it’s an experience we learn,” she said. “We tell them to be proactive about leaving. We can see what the system has done through the simulator, which does not affect our ability to learn from that experience.”

    According to the company, it already has over 4.5 million on-road miles and billions of miles in virtual test suites.

    During my ride, the safety operator once controlled the section along the side road as the pickup truck sitting on the driveway, which was inching forward, seemed to be turning in front of the cicada. For the rest of the two rides, the truck moved autonomously and smoothly, with one slightly aggressive braking event as the slow vehicle moved in front of it.

    What they showed

    Under a temporary structure with smooth lighting, carpets, seats and decorations reminiscent of Tesla’s Ribir event, the company set out a strategy and presented technology prototypes and educational explanations, including LIDAR and simulation. Did.The purpose was to show what was behind the deployment plan Autonomous truck business until the second half of 2023 and ride hailing in the second half of 2024.

    The company will showcase two different vehicle prototypes and will eventually provide vehicles that autonomously move goods and people around the world. They exhibited the Volvo VNL truck, Volvo’s first autonomous truck design prototype for commercial production. VNL on-road testing will begin in 2022.

    Aurora also exhibited an AV-enabled Toyota Sienna prototype for mass production. Aurora has integrated its AV system into its vehicles and plans to have approximately 12 vehicle test fleets for testing and verification in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area and Texas.

    Road ahead

    Aurora wasn’t ready to talk about future partners. But strategically, Anderson said the market is huge and “there are many players and we are talking to many of them.”

    The pair considered teleassistance technology, but This is when a person at an offsite location monitor can send route planning instructions to self-driving cars as needed. That they have never discussed in detail before.

    “From day one, we thought teleassist would be part of the technology,” Armson said.

    “We modeled what happens in and around the terminal with very fine particle size,” Anderson described the progress so far, noting that all steps are graphed. “Therefore, we have a pretty strong understanding of what the end-to-end support requirements are. What we don’t have yet is that we need tele-assistance events and roadside assistance when there is no driver on the truck. Frequency. “

    Armson and Anderson have confirmed that the company is testing teleassist technology on closed trucks and public roads and will work with partners to determine the best approach for commercial driving.

    Aurora shines spotlight on autonomous truck tech, strategy ahead of SPAC merger – TechCrunch Source link Aurora shines spotlight on autonomous truck tech, strategy ahead of SPAC merger – TechCrunch

    The post Aurora shines spotlight on autonomous truck tech, strategy ahead of SPAC merger – TechCrunch appeared first on California News Times.

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