The technology companies Continental and Aurora Innovation, Inc. have entered into an exclusive partnership to deliver the first commercially scalable generation of Aurora’s flagship integrated hardware and software system, the Aurora Driver. The organizations will jointly design, develop, validate, deliver, and service the scalable autonomous system for the trucking industry. The system is expected to be available for carriers and commercial fleet operators across the U.S. and to help reduce costs to facilitate broader adoption. Continental will leverage its decades of experience in systems development for safer, more reliable automotive solutions to industrialize the Aurora Driver and deliver the entire hardware set as well as a new fallback system. In the unlikely event of a failure in the primary autonomy system, the fallback system is designed to ensure a driverless truck can continue the driving task until it reaches a safe position. Additionally, Continental will manage the complete lifecycle of its supplied autonomous hardware kits for the Aurora Driver, from the manufacturing line to decommissioning. The first start of production is expected in 2027, following the expected launch of Aurora Horizon, Aurora’s subscription trucking service underpinned by the Aurora Driver, in 2024.
“At Continental, we are proud to demonstrate our leading technology expertise by being responsible for the development, manufacturing and implementation of the autonomous driving system kits and the fallback path for Aurora’s autonomy system,” said Nikolai Setzer, CEO of Continental. ”In this exclusive partnership, 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. A crucial step towards autonomous mobility.”
“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,” said Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO at Aurora. “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. Their depth of expertise will be pivotal to scaling Aurora’s autonomous trucking service, Aurora Horizon.”
Increased safety, reduced fuel consumption and quicker delivery times
Given the continued strain on the global supply chain, autonomous trucking solutions have the potential to help meet today’s growing demand and ease the strain currently experienced worldwide. Autonomously powered trucks have the ability to operate around the clock opening up the possibility for cargo between Dallas and Los Angeles (comparable to Berlin to Madrid) to be delivered within less than 24 hours. As a result, fuel consumption can potentially be reduced by around ten percent, while the delivery time can be shortened up to three times compared to that of a human driver. With more than 1.35 million annual global deaths on roadways according to the World Health Organization, autonomous vehicles represent an opportunity to transform travel safety for millions of individuals and the transportation of millions of goods. Through this joint work, Continental and Aurora are committed to improving safety, delivering scalable and predictable driving capacities via the Aurora Driver, as well as enhancing efficiency with higher utilization.
Autonomous trucking system – the implementation
In this first-of-its-kind partnership, Continental will be responsible for the autonomous driving system kits which will leverage a wide spectrum of Continental’s extensive automotive product portfolio from sensors, automated driving control units (ADCU), high performance computers (HPC), telematics units and more, to the complete fallback system which covers the full chain of effects. Continental will integrate these hardware components into pods which will be supplied to Aurora’s vehicle manufacturing partners. This will advance the product offering for autonomous trucking customers.
Frank Petznick, head of the Autonomous Mobility Business Area, which will implement Continental’s contributions to the partnership with Aurora: “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. 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.”
Industry’s first hardware-as-a-service business model
Continental and Aurora have agreed upon a hardware-as-a-service business relationship, 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 safer, more reliable, predictable, and cost-efficient driver service to supplement human driver supply. Using this service, 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.
Continental and Aurora plan to provide this scalable solution to 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.