Chris Urmson, CEO of Aurora, talks about self-driving trucks and building confidence


Q: As Aurora moves forward after a year of major transactions, what is it looking for as partners?

A: For us, it is important that the partners we work with share a commitment to technology, that they are excited to advance this vision and that we can create value for them and they can create of value to us. The key to all of these relationships is that we both bring something to the table from a position of mutual respect and an aspiration to go do something.

It’s important that we get that level of alignment and compatibility at the leadership level, but also at the work team level. Because if you don’t have both, the partnership won’t go where it needs to go.

Unlike some of its competitors, Aurora is working to deploy autonomous driving technology in passenger vehicles and semitrucks. Why?

We realized that the end technology is common to both. When you think about it up front and design and architect it appropriately, then you can add value to these two ecosystems.

The hard part of driving is understanding the world around your vehicle and figuring out how other players will react to what you do and taking a course of action that will keep you safe and get you where you need to go. . It doesn’t matter if you drive a big truck or a small car, the basic understanding is common.

At Aurora, we had this idea early on and we were like, “How do you leverage the hardware and software in a way that takes advantage of this idea? So today we use the same software and hardware on big trucks as we do on other vehicles.

How will Aurora’s autonomous driving technology be deployed?

We will be launching our first product with trucking, something that will move goods from terminal to terminal, something right next to the freeway that will maybe travel a few miles to get to the freeway. Then it will travel a few hundred kilometers on the highway, stop and then arrive at a terminal right next to a set of surface roads near the highway.

From there, we expect the same technology to be transferred to passenger vehicles. Imagine apps that look a lot like this: going from an airport to the freeway, for example, going down the freeway and stopping at a convention center or hotel district and delivering passengers there. This is the correct initial application for our approach to the market, and we believe it is the correct approach overall.

Because we have this partnership with Uber, we are able to take care of those trips without having to make all the trips, because the drivers on Uber will be able to take people to places we can’t go. And then over time, as we expand the capabilities of the Aurora Pilot, we will expand the types of places we can serve.

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