Aurora Innovation announced a key hire today: Kendra Phillips, the former CTO and VP of new products for Ryder System Inc., will now lead Aurora’s trucking and logistics partner programs.
Phillips brings 16 years of experience in the logistics industry, having worked across strategy, business, operations, product development, and service delivery, Aurora says. She’ll play a lead role in launching Aurora Shield, a suite of tools and support services including roadside assistance and hardware support packages for fleets powered by the Aurora Driver.
New terminals in Fort Worth, El Paso, and Houston
The move comes as Aurora is opening new autonomous vehicle terminals in Fort Worth and El Paso to bolster a new partnership with Omaha-based Werner Enterprises, with autonomously driven loads hauled between the two cities.
The collaboration with Werner will “strategically broaden Aurora’s customer ecosystem to include multiple carrier types,” Aurora announced today, noting that the Fort Worth-El Paso route is a key link in the busy commercial thoroughfare from Los Angeles to Atlanta.
To service the route, Aurora brought the two new terminal sites online and built the technological and operational infrastructure required to operate it.
Pittsburgh- and Mountain View, California-based Aurora has also opened a new terminal in Houston—and is currently hauling goods autonomously for FedEx, Werner, and Uber Freight “day and night” across multiple high-volume freight corridors in Texas, the company said.
A monotonous, 600-mile run
The Fort Worth to El Paso lane is an unappealing trip for many truck drivers, Aurora says, due to its long distance and monotonous flat vistas. That made it a good test candidate for its Aurora Driver technology.
By deploying it on hauls like this, Aurora and the companies it works with “are building a future in which autonomous trucks can handle less popular routes, while human drivers transport more convenient hauls that are conducive to desirable lifestyles,” the company said.
“Werner has a long history of pioneering new technology within the industry,” Werner’s Chairman, President, and CEO Derek Leathers said in a statement. “This collaboration and pilot with Aurora is another step forward in our commitment to sustainability and safety for our drivers, customers, and the motoring public through innovation.”
“We look forward to building a hybrid world where drivers continue to haul freight while autonomous trucks supplement rising demand,” Leathers added.
Operators accompany the truck on weekly hauls
The Fort Worth-El Paso pilot aims to advance the Aurora Driver and Aurora Horizon, Aurora’s autonomous truck product, as the company works toward deploying the Aurora Driver at scale for multiple carriers.
But the trucks aren’t driving without human presence—operators in the cab are accompanying each truck in the pilot fleet on weekly hauls, ready to assist if needed.
Over the next several months, Aurora and Werner say they expect to increase the frequency of these loads and are exploring further autonomy for vehicles on the route.
“We look forward to maturing and streamlining these hybrid operations and ultimately delivering a product that delivers value to Werner and its customers at a large scale,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s co-founder and chief product officer, in the statement.
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