Aurora Innovation has launched a pilot program with the freight unit of Uber Technologies Inc to transport goods in Texas and integrate autonomous trucking into Uber Freight's shipping platform.
Aurora began autonomously transporting loads for Uber Freight customers between Dallas and Houston last week. The company plans to launch its commercial autonomous trucking business by the end of 2023, starting in Texas.
Uber acquired a 26 per cent stake in Aurora after the self-driving company bought Uber's autonomous vehicle unit ATG last year.
Uber Freight is a platform that connects shippers who need goods with available truck drivers, oftentimes independent contractors in a highly fragmented market.
An Aurora spokeswoman said prior to last week's launch, the company began collaborating with Uber Freight a year ago, hauling goods over thousands of miles in Texas to gain insight.
Using autonomous trucks, carriers will be able to increase the use of the truck and haul more goods between terminals, Aurora said. Human truck drivers are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours per day, restrictions that do not apply to self-driving trucks.
The pilot program deploys drop-and- hook loads, an industry term that describes a driver dropping off a full container at a terminal and then immediately grabbing a new one, without waiting for it to be unloaded.
Human-operated trucks booked through the Uber Freight network then handle the last mile to the actual destination, where the goods are being unloaded, the companies said.