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Trucks Move Past Cars on the Road to Autonomy

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A self-driving truck.

The makers of self-driving trucks are focusing on comparatively simpler highway driving, and expect human drivers to handle local streets.

Credit: TuSimple

In 2016, three veterans of the still young autonomous vehicle industry formed Aurora, a startup focused on developing self-driving cars. Partnerships followed with major automakers, including Hyundai and Volkswagen. CEO Chris Urmson said at the time that the link-ups would help the company bring "mobility as a service" to urban areas—Uber-like rides without a human behind the wheel.

But by late 2019, Aurora's emphasis had shifted. It said self-driving trucks, not cars, would be quicker to hit public roads en masse. Its executives, who had steadfastly refused to provide a timeline for their self-driving-car software, now say trucks equipped with its "Aurora Driver" will hit the roads in 2023 or 2024, with ride-hail vehicles following a year or two later. This month, the company announced it would go public via a reverse merger, raising $2 billion in the process. "We have a team that really understands how hard this problem is," says Urmson.

The move points to a growing consensus in the industry: If self-driving vehicles are going to happen, trucks will likely arrive before cars.

From Wired
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