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It’s been some time since we discussed self-driving vehicles and the many startups surrounding them. The two largest and most recent achievements surrounding self-driving vehicles were the Waymo One Robotaxi project, a robotaxi ride hailing service made up of a fleet of self-driving Waymo vehicles, originally led by Google and made up of modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid units. This year, self-driving startup Plus was certified for testing its autonomous trucks in China. Now, a new contender called Aurora enters the race, ready to launch its own autonomous trucks and subscription-based robotaxi service.
In case anyone is wondering, yes, Aurora is the same Aurora Innovation self-driving startup Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA; now Stellantis) and Kia Corp invested in back in 2019. Founded in 2017 by former executives from Google, Tesla and Uber, plus former lead engineer for Google’s self-driving car project, Aurora was developing hardware and software for self-driving autonomous car technology. The company already had successful tests on the streets of San Francisco, Palo Alto, California, and Pittsburgh, using the “Aurora Driver” autonomous driving system.
Fast-forward to now, and Aurora Innovation reveals its two main projects – Aurora Horizon and Aurora Connect. The former is a self-driving trucking service that the company states will provide trucking carriers and private fleets with a reliable and scalable driver supply powered by the Aurora Driver. At this time, Aurora Driver can only operate under certain conditions, so it is unclear if these commercial trucks will be unmanned. The same can be said for the new robotaxi ride-hailing service, Aurora Connect,” that will allow vehicles equipped with the company’s Driver technology to be integrated into a ride-hailing network and be used as a taxi via a subscription – there will most likely be an app to sign up once that service launches.
Don’t expect to see Aurora Horizon or Aurora Connect on the streets anytime soon, though. The company doesn’t expect to roll out its self-driving trucks and ride-hailing vehicles until 2023 for the former and 2024 for the latter. Furthermore, Aurora doesn’t intend on making their consumer base individual truckers or ride-hailing passengers like most self-driving vehicles at the moment. Instead, Aurora vehicles will be for logistics firms and companies that operate for-hire vehicle fleets. This is because Aurora Innovation is more focused on the big picture – the technology that makes this all possible.
With the reveal of Aurora Connect and Aurora Horizon, Aurora Innovation also released its plans for Aurora Beacon, a type of a mission control system for subscribers using either Aurora Horizon or Aurora Connect and with Access to Aurora Driver. Subscribers will also have access to a roadside assistance program and extended support called Aurora Shield. Basically, it seems like an all-in-one package for consumers who operate a business that requires multiple vehicles on the road at once. With the amount of trucks on the road today, and the long hours truckers spend on the road to make delivery dates, it could mean much safer roadways if less drivers with fatigue were out there.
At this time, Aurora Innovation isn’t revealing the price to subscribe to either service. We should be getting more information as Aurora moves forward with operations. Follow along with us on NowCar social media.