In it for the long haul: teaming up with PACCAR to build and deploy self-driving trucks
Today we’re excited to share we’ve reached a significant milestone in delivering our first product, a driverless truck.
Two years ago, we founded Aurora to deliver the benefits of self-driving safely, quickly, and broadly. To succeed, we needed to assemble a deeply experienced team, build a highly advanced technology, and craft a carefully-tailored strategy. We began by building a seasoned team, and allowed ourselves the luxury of taking advantage of the latest advances in sensors, computation and applied machine learning by designing from a clean sheet. Meanwhile, we built a strategy for delivering our technology broadly.
As we built this strategy, we considered the benefits of forming an exclusive partnership with a member of the transportation ecosystem, like securing financing. However, we also recognized that this approach could hamper our ability to deliver the benefits of our technology broadly. And being able to do that for millions of people around the world is paramount. So instead of becoming captive to a single player, we built an independent platform we called the Aurora Driver.
The Aurora Driver is not an engineering service or a supplied commodity. Instead, it is the hardware, the software, and the data services that guide vehicles powered by it safely through the world. This Driver ties together the vehicles it powers with the people it serves, the transportation networks it supports, and the fleet management apparatus it requires.
When realized, the Aurora Driver will allow everyone on the platform to benefit from both the unique capabilities it draws from each partner, and the scale benefits it facilitates. Manufacturing components is a challenging business. So is designing and assembling vehicles, operating transportation networks, and deploying capital-intensive fleets. Fortunately, companies exist who have mastered each, and who — when brought together around a common platform — can do far more together than they can apart. Moreover, all Aurora-powered vehicles carry a common set of self-driving hardware and run the same self-driving software, allowing Aurora and its partners to benefit from the collective scale of all participants on the platform by reducing the cost of the hardware and allowing the software to learn from the combined experience of all vehicles on the platform.
Because the Driver is designed to support multiple automakers and transportation networks, its core hardware and software must preserve its performance and safety guarantees even when applied to vehicles of different makes, models and classes, or interacting with dispatch systems from different providers. To truly realize the benefits of scale and minimize the integration burden, the Aurora Driver conditions and distributes its own power, coordinates and synchronizes its own sensors, and communicates with the vehicle over a simple umbilical. To allow operation across a wide variety of vehicles, its controller is designed to quickly learn and continuously adapt to the dynamics of the vehicle it is controlling. Finally, the Driver will communicate with multiple transportation networks over a common API.
Around this time last year, we announced partnerships with several automakers and began building the first wave of vehicles to be powered by the Aurora Driver. Over the last year, we have integrated the system into five different vehicle platforms from four different OEMs. We work with each to devise a path to autonomy that leverages our complementary strengths and expands our collective impact.
Throughout this development process, we’ve maintained a careful separation between what is core to the Driver and what is specific to a given partner. We also establish and execute against internal milestones that keep the team focused on the central mission; for instance, the deployment of key software infrastructure, the design of core hardware, or the realization of important capabilities in a market that matters. Our partners understand and appreciate that to do otherwise — to focus on one-off pilots or milestones — would distract from the core mission and slow the progress of the platform; something we cannot do.
While we still have work to do, what the team has accomplished to date has set in motion the long pole vehicle development activities that will ultimately run the Aurora Driver on an ecosystem built to support it. With this foundation in place and the platform requirements well understood, our vehicle partners are positioned to move compatible vehicles toward production while we further develop the Driver and prepare the communications and operational infrastructure ultimately required to deploy it. When it does deploy, the Aurora Driver will create significant opportunity for our partners on the platform.
More importantly, it will provide massive social and economic benefits to our world. With the Aurora Driver and the ecosystem built around it, we will deliver those safely, quickly, and broadly.
Learn more at aurora.tech.