Self-Driving Trucks Hit The Road As Volvo And Aurora Partner On Autonomous VNL

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Three years after showing off a prototype, the collaboration between Volvo Autonomous Solutions (VAS) and Aurora Innovations has finally bore fruit in the form of their first purpose-built and designed production SAE Level 4 autonomous semi truck. The vehicle is packed to the gills with LiDAR boasting a 400 meter detection range, AI, high resolution cameras, and redundancy systems for full autonomy, efficiency, and, of course, safety in mind.

Volvo and Aurora have pulled the covers off a production Volvo VNL autonomous truck at the Advanced Clean Transport (ACT) Expo currently running in Las Vegas. The team up has been relatively quiet since demonstrating its prototype in 2021, but now fleet companies will be able to get their hands on the latest Volvo VNL with advanced self-driving capabilities.

Teaming with self-driving systems developer Aurora, Volvo is selling a version of its venerable VNL tractor truck with level 4 autonomous driving. The system is powered by Aurora Driver which utilizes a slew of imaging radars, high-res cameras, sensors, and a LiDAR unit that detects objects up to 400 meters (1312 feet) away. The Aurora Driver package has been trained and tested undergoing 1.5 million commercial miles on public roads in all kinds of weather and surfaces, as well as billions of virtual miles.

Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and Chief Product Officer says that “this truck combines Aurora’s industry-leading self-driving technology with Volvo’s best-in-class truck, designed specifically for autonomy, making it a must-have for any transport provider that wants to strengthen and grow their business.”

Despite these capabilities, the truck will always have a human driver behind the wheel, plus according to Shahrukh Kazmi, VAS Chief Product Officer, there are "redundancy systems to ensure that every safety-critical component is intentionally duplicated, thereby significantly enhancing both safety and reliability.”

Moving forward, the truck will be involved later this year in pilot programs with clients that could include FedEx and Uber Freight. At the ACT show, both companies stated that Volvo has begun manufacturing a test fleet at its New River Valley plant in Virginia. 

As for the semi truck itself, it was launched in 1996 with speed, safety, and fuel efficiency in mind. The highly-popular VNL (Volvo, North America, Long Hood, and Medium Hood) was designed as a class 8 tractor for long-haul use on North American roadways.