Aurora, FedEx team up on driverless tech to address trucker shortage

·2 min read

Autonomous vehicle company Aurora recently launched a partnership with FedEx (FDX) to test the use of self-driving trucks to ship goods between Dallas and Houston.

The project features an operator in the truck to oversee the system in its initial stage, though Aurora plans to launch a driverless version of the experiment within the next two years.The trucks will travel a route measuring almost 500-miles to help FedEx deliver packages across the state of Texas.

Aurora looks to help ease the shortage of drivers in the trucking industry using new autonomous vehicle technology. “We think that the value of the automation of the Aurora driver is really profound,” said Aurora CEO Chris Urmson in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Live. That in the US, "We have a dramatic shortage of drivers today… And so for our partners being able to provide a driver to complement the human drivers that they have out there to support that [would be valuable].”

Autonomous vehicles, he said, wouldn’t be limited by hours of service regulations, “so you can effectively shrink the country and make it easier for goods to move around and deliver those goods to consumers and manufacturing systems, or manufacturing companies quicker.”

Earlier this year, Aurora announced plans to go public via a SPAC deal. The startup was acquired by Reinvent Technology Partners Y, a special purpose acquisition company founded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, and managing partner Michael Thompson.

“We started our SPAC process with the idea of trying to build it as a high quality, IPO-like process and just happened to use the SPAC vehicle to do that,” Urmson said. “For us, it was really about becoming part of the public markets, allowing others to engage and come along this journey with us.”

A Federal Express truck makes its way down a freeway in San Diego, California August 22, 2014.     REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS LOGO)
A Federal Express truck makes its way down a freeway in San Diego, California August 22, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS LOGO)

The ambitious project is the brainchild of three different industries, Urmson said. “What we've done is we put together three industry leaders.” Aurora is responsible for the building of the driver software, while Paccar and Peterbilt are responsible for producing the truck. FedEx has partnered with the company to provide a market for driverless vehicles, which are legal in Texas.

“FedEx [is] the preeminent shipper and we're working together to introduce automation to the line haul operations and support FedEx and growing their business,” Urmson said. “We're working towards launching a driverless operation at the end of ‘23.”

Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.

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