Autonomous vehicle startup Aurora has entered into an exclusive partnership with German automotive parts company Continental to deliver the first commercially scalable generation of Aurora’s flagship automated driving hardware and software system, the Aurora Driver, the companies announced April 27.
The companies have agreed to jointly design, develop, validate, deliver, and service the Aurora Driver for the trucking industry. Production is expected to start in 2027 for carriers and commercial fleet operators across the United States, following the expected 2024 launch of Aurora Horizon, Aurora’s subscription trucking service underpinned by the Aurora Driver.
“Continental demonstrates its leading technology expertise by industrializing the first commercially scalable autonomous trucking systems,” Nikolai Setzer, CEO of Continental, said in a statement. “Together with Aurora, we take a crucial step towards autonomous mobility.”
Continental and Aurora have agreed to an industry-first hardware-as-a-service business relationship — one based on mileage driven — to deliver safe, reliable, uptime-optimized and commercially scalable autonomous driving systems to customers through the Aurora Horizon platform. Aurora Horizon was developed to offer a predictable, cost-efficient autonomous driver service to supplement human driver supply. Using Aurora Horizon, the companies noted that carriers and fleet operators will be able to better utilize the potential of their vehicle fleets, scale business on demand, and help address today’s driver shortage.
“Delivering autonomous vehicles at scale has the potential to dramatically transform modern transportation, bringing new accessibility, safety and efficiency to the movement of goods and people,” Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO at Aurora, said in a statement. “Continental’s legacy in development and industrialization of automated driving systems, combined with its commitment to transform transportation make it an ideal partner for Aurora.”
Continental will be responsible for the autonomous driving system kits that will leverage a wide spectrum of Continental’s extensive automotive product portfolio, including sensors, automated driving control units, high performance computers, telematics units, and Aurora’s new fallback system, which is designed to ensure a driverless truck can continue the driving task until it reaches a safe position.
Continental will integrate these hardware components into pods which will be supplied to Aurora’s vehicle manufacturing partners. Continental will also manage the complete lifecycle of its supplied autonomous hardware kits for the Aurora Driver, from the manufacturing line to decommissioning.
“We bundle our systems competence with Aurora’s industry-leading autonomous technology for our common goal to jointly realize the first commercially scalable autonomous trucking systems,” Setzer said in a statement. “A crucial step towards autonomous mobility.”
In addition, Continental and Aurora plan to work together with Aurora’s vehicle manufacturing partners. Continental parts are expected to be produced and assembled in its newly built manufacturing facility in New Braunfels, Texas, as well as others across the company’s global footprint.
Continental and Aurora will bring the commercial freight market, limited by supply chain constraints in many markets of the world, to a new service level,” Frank Petznick, head of Continental’s autonomous mobility business Area, said in a statement. “The first commercially scalable autonomous trucking system provides exciting opportunities for passenger transportation in the coming years and paves the way for broad adoption of autonomous mobility.”