Autonomous driving technology developer Aurora is launching a new, more powerful hardware kit it plans to use for self-driving trucks and robo-taxis.
The Fusion, which looks almost like a television soundbar mounted above a truck cab, will be installed later this year in Peterbilt trucks and Toyota Sienna raid-hailing vehicles being used in test programs.
Aurora said the move is in preparation for the launch of its self-driving trucking business in 2023. The system also is slated for the launch of Aurora’s ride-hailing business the following year.
Compared to earlier robotic driving suites from Aurora, the new system packs more powerful sensors into a sleek, modular automotive-grade rack that is paired with a more powerful computer. The sensors feed the Aurora’s or driving system – which it calls Driver – data at a faster rate, improving safety, the company said.
“Whether it’s detecting a pedestrian over three football fields away, registering the speed of oncoming traffic, or driving through thick dust clouds or a blindingly bright sunset, the Aurora Driver has to see it all,” the company said in a blog post.
The system incorporates a powerful high-resolution custom camera suite with a 360-degree field of view, proprietary lidar that instantly knows the speed of everything it sees and radar that provides full coverage in any weather condition.
The new computer has five times the processing power of the unit it replaces, built-in redundancy for additional safety, and the networking power capacity to operate safely without a safety driver. All of Aurora’s testing so far has required a human driver to monitor the self-driving system’s operations.
“Our new computer also comes with an enhanced liquid cooling system so it can handle the hot temperatures of the Southwest,” the company said.
Aurora is focusing its testing and early commercial uses in the southwest because of favorable weather conditions and long stretches of highway, which are easier for self-driving trucks to navigate than traffic-dense urban settings.
“The end result is a feature-complete, safer, more reliable Driver ready to be deployed at a commercial scale,” Aurora said.
Aurora is focusing on developing autonomous driving technology for commercial uses rather than vehicles that consumers will purchase.
Aurora chief executive and co-founder Chris Urmson, the former leader of Google’s self-driving car division, said commercial uses offer the best payback opportunities for the massive investment self-driving technology development requires.