Aurora Will Test Its Fleet of Self-Driving, Ride-Hailing Toyota Robotaxis in Dallas

The "S-AM" hybrid electric minivans—short for "Sienna Autonomo-MaaS"—will be tested in a six-month pilot program in Dallas, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay areal, and other locations. Aurora intends to deploy the vehicles on ride-hailing networks in late 2024.

Aurora, the self-driving vehicle tech company, will be testing something on Dallas streets over the next six months—the Toyota Sienna, powered by the Aurora Driver and built for ride-hailing. 

Aurora—which is based in Mountain View, CA., and Pittsburgh, PA.—collaborated with Toyota’s engineering team to define the requirements of the self-driving passenger minivan. Aurora intends to commercially launch it on ride-hailing networks in late 2024.

Engineering team working on Toyota Sienna powered by Aurora Driver [Photo: Aurora]

The company calls this introduction “a significant milestone” in its path to commercializing Aurora-powered Toyota vehicles designed specifically for ride-hailing.

“When we announced our long-term, global, strategic collaboration with Toyota earlier this year, we set out to develop a self-driving car for autonomous ride-hailing,” Aurora said in a blog post. “Now, we’re combining the deep experience of Toyota’s engineering and research teams with our expertise in safely developing a robust autonomous system to create a comfortable, convenient, and safe ride experience.”

“S-AM” hybrid-electrics

Toyota Sienna Powered by Aurora Driver [Photo: Aurora]

The hybrid-electric S-AM Toyota minivans—short for “Sienna Autonomo-MaaS”—will be tested in a six-month pilot program in Dallas, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay areal, and other locations.

Aurora says it has also collaborated with Toyota’s engineering team to define the requirements that will enable the Toyota S-AM to be safely operated by the Aurora Driver.

Aurora is currently integrating its Driver with Toyota’s first S-AM vehicles. As progress is made with Toyota through the Aurora Driver Development Program, Aurora will expand testing of this prototype, refine it through pilots, validate it in accordance with its safety case framework and Toyota’s own safety standards, and expect to launch it on ride-hailing networks at scale.

Getting insights from Uber’s experience

Aurora has been aided in its development by insights from Uber’s Advanced Technology Group’s self-driving test network.

“Thanks to our close partnership with Uber, the Aurora-powered Toyota S-AM benefits from the broad ride-hailing experience that accelerates our path to commercialization,” Aurora said in the blog post. “Uber ATG’s test network hosted 50,000 trips, accounting for 4 million miles of rider experience data, and over 25 billion trips have been completed on Uber’s consumer-facing platform. We derive significant insights from the collective experience of our teams, which inform how our technical systems work and how the Toyota S-AM should interact with users from a behavioral perspective to provide a seamless, magical user experience.”

High-tech solutions for a comfortable ride

If robotaxis do indeed become common in Dallas and across the U.S. in the years to come, you won’t be able to ask your drive to turn up the AC. So Aurora is designing these vehicles with “dynamic temperature controls.” The tech will allow riders to set their preferences through their ride hailing app, so when the robotaxi picks them up, it will already be optimized for their comfort. 

If robotaxis could tell you where to find great Mexican food or who will win the Cowboys-Eagles game, you’d have it all. (But then Aurora is probably working on those things too.)

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