FedEx is joining an initiative with commercial truck maker Paccar and Aurora Technologies to push ahead with the development of autonomous vehicles and have it ready for service.
The new venture expands a 9-month-old partnership between Paccar, a leading maker of heavy-duty trucks, and Aurora’s automated driving technology platform to test Aurora’s autonomous driving technology in Paccar-built vehicles.
The goal of the initiative is to accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous driving technology. Aurora is currently using its Aurora Driver system on Paccar trucks for independent testing purposes.
The initial goal of the partnership with Paccar is to improve freight efficiency and safety for Paccar’s customers. Kenworth T680 and Peterbilt 579 trucks utilizing the Aurora Driver are expected to be deployed in North America in the next several years.
New venture based on existing partnership
In a blog post, Aurora, which was founded by Chris Urmson, the AV expert instrumental in launching Waymo’s self-driving vehicles, said it will begin a commercial pilot program with FedEx. “We’ll be regularly and autonomously hauling FedEx loads with a safety driver between Dallas and Houston, a 500-mile round trip along the I-45 corridor,” the blog post said.
The pilot with FedEx and Paccar will demonstrates how we’re progressing and advancing through the Aurora Driver Development Program as we’re now in the “refine and pilot” phase, the post said.
The introduction of autonomous vehicles is progressing more slowly than a few years ago when the idea of the technology first came to the fore. However, Aurora has emerged as a one of the leaders in the AV space, creating partnerships with Hyundai, Kia and Stellantis.
While the company launched with the aim of developing self-driving passenger vehicles, like their rivals at Waymo, Aurora executives acknowledge the first commercial breakthrough in fully autonomous vehicles are likely to come in vehicles that carry commercial freight.
Fed Ex needs tech to keep pace with demand for packages
FedEx said the application of Aurora’s technology is the latest addition to the logistics company’s portfolio of autonomous and robotics solutions.
The exponential growth of e-commerce has accelerated the demand for reliable, efficient transportation and logistics solutions throughout all stages of the supply chain, FedEx said in a statement announcing the initiative.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and we always anticipate what’s next to be future-ready,” said Rebecca Yeung, vice president, advanced technology and innovation, FedEx Corp.
“This is an exciting, industry-first collaboration that will work toward enhancing the logistics industry through safer, more efficient transportation of goods and we are pleased to collaborate with other industry leaders — Aurora and PACCAR — on this endeavor,” Young added.
Earlier this year, Aurora and PACCAR announced a strategic partnership to build and deploy autonomous trucks, according to Paccar.
“Deepening our relationship with Aurora and FedEx to optimize one of our most important customer networks on Paccar AVP equipped trucks is a significant and special milestone to deliver this technology at scale,” said John Rich, Paccar chief technology officer.
This is an industry-first three-way collaboration between a logistics provider, autonomous technology developer and a truck manufacturer. The pilot begins today and will run along FedEx’s Dallas-Houston parcel lanes, completing the nearly 500-mile round trip route multiple times each week. The trucks will operate autonomously, with a backup driver for additional safety.
Ford also has AV pilot ready to go
Earlier this month, Ford Motor Co. announced, along with automated driving partner Argo AI, it was teaming up with Walmart to launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Miami, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
Walmart’s last-mile delivery service will use Ford self-driving test vehicles equipped with the Argo AI Self-Driving System to deliver Walmart orders to customers. It is the retailer’s first multi-city autonomous delivery collaboration in the U.S.
“Our focus on the testing and development of self-driving technology that operates in urban areas where customer demand is high really comes to life with this collaboration,” said Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO, Argo AI.
“Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we’re showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale,” he said.