The Future Has Arrived: Volvo and Aurora Unveil Level 4 Self-Driving Trucks

Driverless semi trucks are on the horizon as Volvo and Aurora’s new VNL Autonomous heads into production.

  • The newly designed Volvo Trucks VNL Autonomous has been launched in a production-ready state.
  • This new semi utilizes Aurora’s Driver Level 4 autonomous system for navigation.
  • Up to 20 driverless big rigs are planned to roll out by the end of the year.

Volvo and Aurora Unveil Production-Ready Self-Driving Truck at Las Vegas ACT Expo

Volvo Autonomous Solutions has unveiled a “production-ready” self-driving truck at the ACT Expo in Las Vegas. This semi-truck was developed in collaboration with Aurora Innovation, a self-driving vehicle start-up founded by former executives from Uber, Tesla, and Google.

The truck is built on a specially tailored version of Volvo Trucks’ VNL class 8 long-haul semi, equipped with accommodations for Aurora’s self-driving hardware and software.

Aurora’s Level 4 Driver System

The automation technology, known as Aurora Driver, is a Level 4 autonomous system that employs a complex mix of AI software, computers, cameras, imaging radar, sensors, and LiDAR for navigation.

Aurora states that its Driver system has undergone testing on 1.5 million miles of public roads. Additionally, extensive testing has been conducted in a virtual environment, where the company claims to have accumulated billions of miles.

Do those figures satisfy the public? A study conducted last year found that 68 percent of Americans harbor concerns about self-driving technology, while only nine percent have confidence in it.

However, Shahrukh Kazmi, Chief Product Officer at Volvo Autonomous Solutions, emphasizes that safety has been a top priority.

“Our platform engineering strategy focuses on safety, utilizing high-assurance redundancy systems to address potential emergency scenarios,” Kazmi explained.

“We developed the Volvo VNL Autonomous from scratch, integrating these redundancy systems to ensure that every safety-critical component is deliberately duplicated, greatly enhancing both safety and reliability.”

Aurora’s Ambitious Plans for Autonomous Volvo VNL Trucks

make heading for this: Aurora will begin using the Volvo VNL Autonomous in the next few months as it hauls freight, with human “safety drivers” ready to take over if the need arises.

However, by the end of the year, the company plans to have up to 20 road-plying, freight-hauling, robo-semis in 2025.

According to TechCrunch, this fleet will be fully autonomous, operating between Houston and Dallas, with no human in the cab. While Aurora has not had any reported accidents, the firm reported a $165 million loss in the first quarter of 2024.

Getting autonomous big rigs out onto the open road will be the best way to profitability, with many self-driving tech companies having shut up shop or changed track away from the freight industry.

Meanwhile, Volvo Autonomous Solutions says they want driverless tech to add additional capacity to the transport sector, and speaks of societal benefits with the advent of autonomy.

This includes (human) drivers being able to focus on routes that provide a better work-life balance.

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...