By Yanbing Li, Senior Vice President, Software Engineering
While driving any vehicle in the real world, you can expect to encounter anything from open roads and blue skies to heavy rain and stop-and-go traffic. And if you’ve ever driven in Texas, you know that its roadways are infamous for year-round construction. Construction is a common feature on many of our nation’s major freight corridors, so to operate on the U.S. highway system and deliver goods for our commercial partners safely and on time, the Aurora Driver must be able to navigate construction zones autonomously. But construction zones are tricky—they can pop up and disappear without notice, display confusing signage, and consist of hazardous materials, moving vehicles, and pedestrians.
Aurora Driver-powered vehicles have driven through over 3,500 miles of construction on Texas roads in the last nine months. On our Dallas to El Paso route alone, our vehicles encounter about 40 construction sites a week. Our data science team has analyzed hundreds of terabytes of data on all of the trips we’ve driven on Texas roadways to determine which types of construction-related challenges tend to occur most often on our commercial routes. By focusing our time and resources on overcoming these challenges first, we prioritize developing capabilities for the Aurora Driver that have the highest impact. Acquiring these critical capabilities allows our trucks to operate in autonomy for longer stretches of time and gets us closer to delivering on the promise of autonomous long-haul trucking.
Last week I rode in an Aurora Driver-powered Peterbilt truck for 11 hours, pulling a commercial load for our partner, Werner, between El Paso and Dallas. I got to witness first-hand the high frequency and complexity of construction zones on the route, and how much progress the Aurora Driver has made in navigating these construction zones autonomously.