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Volvo is partnering with self-driving startup Aurora on a new lineup of fully autonomous semi trucks, the companies announced.
“long-term partnership spanning several years” It’s also the latest partnership between a major OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and an autonomous technology startup, as the industry continues to slowly inch toward a future with more fully driverless passenger vehicles and trucks on the road.
Unlike its rivals, which are largely focused on robotaxi applications, the company has said that its first commercial service will be in trucking “where the market is largest today, the unit economics are best, and the level of service requirements is most accommodating.
“Creating a viable autonomous on-highway offering requires close partnerships with both customers and tech partners to develop the needed capabilities,” says Nils Jaeger, president of Volvo Autonomous Solutions, in a statement.
To date, Aurora has raised $690 million in funding, and co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson has been hailed as the “Henry Ford of autonomous vehicles,” thanks to his work helping to pioneer Google’s self-driving car initiative.
Volvo, which is the second largest manufacturer of heavy duty semi trucks, has been gradually adding more partially autonomous features in its trucks but has yet to strike a deal to build fully driverless delivery vehicles.
Indeed, there are widespread fears in the trucking industry that autonomous technology will lead to enormous displacement among truck drivers.
There’s been a flurry of partnerships and other corporate deals in recent years in the nascent driverless trucking industry, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic casts doubt on the long-term viability of using autonomous vehicles for passenger transportation.