Driverless Vehicles Arrive in Texas

Those traveling between Dallas and Houston will begin to see automated vehicles scattered throughout I-45.


On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, FedEx announced a pilot program that will use self-driving trucks to haul goods on the 500-mile route along I-45 between Dallas and Houston. The pilot leverages autonomous vehicle startup Aurora’s technology in PACCAR Class 8 trucks. The trucks will operate autonomously with a safety driver as a backup to start.

Aurora describes the launch of the pilot program with PACCAR and FedEx as an “industry-first collaboration” that “combines expertise in trucking, logistics, and autonomy to improve the safety and efficiency of the movement of goods.”

Aurora’s autonomous equipment inside the cab includes a screen that displays what the truck sees with its cameras, LiDAR, radar, and various other sensors. With this state-of-the-art tech stack, the truck can drive itself in routine situations and driving conditions.

The company is targeting the end of 2023 to launch its autonomous trucking business that will haul loads between terminals without a safety driver.

On the consumer-facing side, Aurora is testing “S-AM” hybrid electric minivans with a six-month pilot program in Dallas. “S-AM” stands for “Siena Autonomo-MaaS.” These vehicles are designed for ride-hailing and are expected to be commercially deployed by the end of 2024.

The program’s development has been supplemented by Aurora’s acquisition of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group’s self-driving test network in December 2020.

In a blog post, Aurora stated, “thanks to our close partnership with Uber, the Aurora-powered Toyota S-AM benefits from the broad ride-hailing experience that accelerates our path to commercialization. Uber ATG’s test network hosted 50,000 trips, accounting for 4 million miles of rider experience data, and over 25 billion trips have been completed on Uber’s consumer-facing platform. We [Aurora] derive significant insights from the collective experience of our teams, which inform how our technical systems work and how the Toyota S-AM should interact with users from a behavioral perspective to provide a seamless, magical user experience.”

With programs like the Aurora Driver and the continued development of autonomous infrastructure, a future only imagined in science-fiction is in reach.


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