Monday, June 24, 2024

Aurora’s Chris Urmson sees self-driving technology shakeout

Chris Urmson, one of the founding members of Google’s self-driving car project more than a decade ago, and now the CEO of Aurora Innovation, sees the self-driving industry unfolding in similar fashion.

“I’ve been saying for six to seven years that we’re going to see consolidation,” he said Monday. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not an interesting space. It just means some people had the combination of capabilities, capital and technology, then made the partnerships to go and succeed.”

Urmson spoke during the Automotive News Congress Monday in Detroit.

His remarks came at a time the self-driving industry is facing renewed self-reflection. In October, Argo AI, a self-driving tech company funded by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen announced its closing. Other autonomous-vehicle companies such as Nuro and Motional are laying off employees.

Urmson, who is focused on deploying AVs in the self-driving truck space, affirmed Aurora’s plans to launch driverless commercial big rigs along with partners in late 2024. He said the company’s self-driving technology is expected to be “feature complete” next year.

Though Urmson is familiar with the dire predictions about the industry, he said pilot projects are proof that self-driving technology is viable. And with driver shortages expected to worsen over the next decade, he foresees trucking as a particular lucrative place to begin driverless service.

“We’re seeing our customers solve real problems,” he said. “When we look in this freight space, we see a very clear direction.”

Aurora is working with truck builders Paccar and Volvo as well as big carriers such as FedEx, Werner and Uber Freight to develop autonomous trucking routes in Texas.

 

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