Volvo and Aurora Innovation Unveil New Self-Driving Truck, Expected on Highways by Summer


A groundbreaking self-driving truck, the Volvo VNL Autonomous, equipped with advanced autonomous vehicle technology from Aurora Innovation, may soon be seen on public highways. Revealed at the ACT Expo in Las Vegas, this truck is a result of a collaboration between Volvo Autonomous Solutions and Aurora.

Launch Plans and Pilot Programs

Aurora plans to commence freight hauling using these self-driving Volvo trucks within the next few months. Initially, these trucks will operate in autonomous mode but will still have a human safety operator on board to take over if necessary. Later this year, Aurora intends to launch pilot programs with select customers to utilize the Volvo VNL Autonomous truck.

Volvo has already begun manufacturing an initial test fleet of these autonomous trucks at its New River Valley assembly facility in Virginia. This unveiling aligns with Aurora’s goal to commercialize self-driving trucks by the end of 2024. The company plans to start driverless freight operations between Dallas and Houston using up to 20 Class 8 trucks without human drivers.

Strategic Partnerships and Industry Context

Aurora’s journey towards commercialization is critical, especially as the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry faces significant challenges. While competitors like Waymo Via and TuSimple have scaled back their operations, Aurora continues to forge ahead despite the high costs associated with developing and launching autonomous trucks. In January, Aurora reduced its workforce by 3% to manage expenses in anticipation of its commercial launch.

Consolidation within the AV industry has left Aurora with fewer competitors. Companies like Einride, Torc, and Kodiak Robotics remain key players, with Kodiak recently unveiling its own self-driving big rig.

Aurora’s Comprehensive Strategy

The partnership with Volvo, established in March 2021, is a cornerstone of Aurora’s commercialization strategy. Aurora has also initiated pilot programs with logistics giants such as FedEx, Ryder, Schneider, and Uber Freight. Additionally, Aurora and automotive supplier Continental completed the first phase of a $300 million project to mass-produce AV hardware for commercial trucks. Although the Continental hardware kit won’t be available in Aurora trucks until 2027, the Volvo VNL is already equipped with numerous safety features.

Advanced Safety and Technology Features

The Volvo VNL Autonomous truck boasts redundant systems for steering, braking, communication, computation, power management, energy storage, and vehicle motion management. It integrates the Aurora Driver, a comprehensive self-driving system featuring dual computers, proprietary self-driving software, in-house lidar with a detection range of over 1,300 feet, high-resolution cameras, and imaging radar.

Shahrukh Kazmi, Chief Product Officer at Volvo Autonomous Solutions, emphasized the truck’s robust safety measures. “Our platform engineering approach prioritizes safety by incorporating high-assurance redundancy systems designed to mitigate potential emergency situations,” he stated. “We built the Volvo VNL Autonomous from the ground up, integrating these redundancy systems to ensure that every safety-critical component is intentionally duplicated, thereby significantly enhancing both safety and reliability.”

Future Outlook

After validating the platform, Aurora and Volvo plan to initiate fully driverless operations with a small fleet of trucks. Over the coming years, they aim to ramp up high-volume production of the Volvo VNL, fully integrated with the Aurora Driver, thereby revolutionizing the freight industry with their cutting-edge autonomous technology.