Werner Enterprises is teaming up with autonomous-tech company Aurora Innovation on a commercial pilot to test and safely deploy autonomous trucks in Texas.
Aurora Driver-powered trucks this week started hauling loads between Fort Worth and El Paso on behalf of Werner. This lane represents the middle leg of one of the busiest commercial thoroughfares for Werner and the U.S. trucking industry, according to a news release: Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Operators are accompanying each truck in the pilot fleet on weekly hauls, ready to assist if necessary. Over the next several months, Aurora and Werner expect to increase the frequency of these loads and are exploring further autonomy for vehicles in this lane.
The pilot is designed to advance the Aurora Driver, and Aurora Horizon, Aurora’s autonomous truck product, to develop a robust service for carriers.
The pilot will use Aurora’s next-generation trucks, based on the Peterbilt Model 579, an Aurora spokesperson told HDT.
The Fort Worth to El Paso lane is over 600 miles and takes approximately nine hours to complete. Its long distance and monotony contribute to a reputation for being unappealing for truck drivers. By deploying the Aurora Driver on such hauls, Aurora and the companies it is working with are looking to have autonomous trucks handle less popular routes in the future, while human drivers transport more convenient hauls that are more conducive to desirable lifestyles.
Launching this new route is a technical and operational milestone toward deploying the Aurora Driver at scale, according to a news release. To start this commercial pilot, Aurora brought two new terminal sites online to service this route and built the technological and operational infrastructure required to operate it.
“Werner has a long history of pioneering new technology within the industry,” said Werner President and CEO Derek Leathers. “This collaboration and pilot with Aurora is another step forward in our commitment to sustainability and safety for our drivers, customers and the motoring public through innovation. We look forward to building a hybrid world where drivers continue to haul freight while autonomous trucks supplement rising demand.”