A Peterbilt Model 579 fitted with Aurora-developed autonomous guidance system during road tests. - Photo: Paccar

A Peterbilt Model 579 fitted with Aurora-developed autonomous guidance system during road tests.

Photo: Paccar

Paccar is the latest truck maker to team up with a technology startup in the quest to develop autonomous technology for heavy-duty trucks.

Paccar and autonomous technology development company Aurora signed a global, strategic agreement to develop, test and commercialize autonomous Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. This collaboration will integrate Paccar’s autonomous vehicle platform with the Aurora Driver software to enhance the safety and operational efficiency of Paccar’s customers, the OEM said in a statement.

In the strategic partnership, Paccar will provide autonomous-enabled vehicles with durability and reliability based on its decades of engineering and manufacturing investments and expertise, as well as aftermarket parts distribution, finance and other transportation solutions, Paccar said.

It's not that Paccar hasn't been working on autonomous technology on its own. Peterbilt demonstrated the "cruise control of the future" back in 2015, when the term "advanced driver assistance system" was not in trucking's general vocabulary. And in 2018, it showed reporters the Paccar Innovation Center in Sunnyvale, California, where one of its development projects was a Level 4 autonomous truck. It also has collaborated with Embark and on platooning with Peloton.

Aurora (which last month announced it was buying Uber's self-driving vehicle business) will provide self-driving technology, including hardware, software and operational services. Both partners will work closely together on all aspects of the collaboration, from component sourcing and vehicle technology to the integration of the Peterbilt and Kenworth vehicles with the Aurora Driver. The partnership also includes vehicle validation at the Paccar Technical Center and production support in Paccar factories.

Paccar said in its press statement that the goal of this collaboration is to improve freight efficiency and safety for its customers. Kenworth T680 and Peterbilt 579 trucks using the Aurora Driver are expected to be deployed in North America in the next several years.

“Aurora is excited to take this next step in our collaboration with Paccar," said Chris Urmson, Aurora co-founder and CEO, in the news release. "Working together, we’ve been impressed with Paccar’s product engineering, manufacturing capabilities, and commitment to enhancing its customers’ operational safety and efficiency. This partnership brings us one step closer to unlocking the autonomous freight market and delivering goods to those who need them.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Aurora's announcement that it was buying Uber's self-driving vehicle business, and that its first market-ready product would be an autonomous truck. In that announcement, Aurora noted that Uber Advanced Technologies Group's team and technology would accelerate its mission to develop autonomous vehicles and deliver its first market-ready products in a quick, safe manner that will be “broadly” available in North America.

The Paccar-Aurora announcement is the latest in a string of strategic alliances between commercial vehicle OEMs and autonomous vehicle technology developers, including Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics, in addition to another agreement between Daimler and Waymo. Additionally, Traton and Navistar have announced partnerships with TuSimple.

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