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Aurora demonstrates the Aurora Driver at our first-ever Investor and Analyst Days

Recap | September 30, 2021 | 4 min. read

By the Aurora Team


(Palmer, Texas)—This week we hosted Aurora Illuminated, an immersive experience for investors and analysts, showcasing our progress, technical expertise, and path to commercialization. Held at our South Dallas Terminal in Palmer, Texas, attendees saw how the Aurora Driver operates in the real world as they rode autonomously along Interstate 45, a major freight corridor, in Aurora’s autonomous trucks. (You can experience Aurora Illuminated here, and view event videos and photos here.)

“This is an exciting time for Aurora. Through close collaboration with our partners, we are delivering on key milestones on our path to market in both trucking and ride-hailing,” said Aurora co-founder and CEO, Chris Urmson. “This week in Texas, attendees experienced the Aurora Driver first-hand with rides in our autonomous trucks—a culmination of our company’s technology, partnerships, and focus on safety.”



“We continue to be impressed with Aurora’s team and the progress they’re making with both their cutting-edge technology and their path to market,” said Michael Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Reinvent Technology Partners Y (RTPY). “Aurora Illuminated was an exciting showcase of how all of Aurora’s strengths come together to deliver the Aurora Driver and what we expect to be a scalable business.”

In addition to investors and analysts, we invited automotive partners, customers, government officials, and our Safety Advisory Board to Aurora Illuminated.

Aurora-powered trucks autonomously hauling goods on Texas highways

 Guests rode in an autonomous Peterbilt 579 on a stretch of Interstate 45, driven by more than 8,500 conventional trucks a day. The route included onramps, offramps, and the surface roads leading up the entrance of the interstate. The route allowed the Aurora Driver to show how it routinely navigates construction, emergency vehicles, and even the occasional pedestrian walking a dog on a road adjacent to the interstate. The route is driven autonomously with safety drivers present.

The autonomous Peterbilt 579 is tightly integrated with the Aurora Driver, which includes our purpose-built hardware kit, designed for performance, reliability, and scale. Deeply integrated with Aurora’s software, Aurora’s industry-leading FirstLight Lidar, high-resolution cameras, and imaging radar can see further, process data quickly, and respond with high accuracy for safe driving in varying conditions and speeds.

Prior to Aurora Illuminated, we had already driven more than 4.5 million on-road miles, as well as billions of effective miles in Aurora's Virtual Testing Suite

Marrying rigorous engineering with advanced machine learning, Aurora showcases how our innovative software and hardware power the Aurora Driver



“Aurora’s approach to developing a self-driving product is one that is designed to be both safe and scalable—an approach that’s driven by data, harnesses the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and leverages the strengths of a world-class team of software and hardware engineers,” said Aurora co-founder and Chief Scientist, Drew Bagnell.

We highlighted key innovations including:

  • Advancing the Aurora Driver through valuable data that drives Machine Learning & AI: We have built important key foundational tools that enable fast interactions and rapid innovation and advancement to power the Aurora "Data Engine" as it collects, mines, labels, and feeds into models training on-road data. This fast iteration cycle provides our teams with the information they need to rapidly advance the capabilities of the Aurora Driver.
  • Designing purpose-built hardware for performance, reliability, and scale: Whether it’s Aurora’s powerful computer or advanced FirstLight lidar sensors, our tightly integrated hardware and software teams jointly design high-performance, custom-built hardware that meets the specific needs of the Aurora Driver.
  • The power of Aurora’s perception system: Leveraging deep learning & early sensor fusion to see the world in full 3D and at long ranges: Aurora’s state-of-the-art perception system provides the Aurora Driver with advanced situational awareness, made possible through our innovative approach to the integration of deep learning and probabilistic state estimation.
  • Aurora Atlas: Lightweight, scalable, high-definition maps for safe autonomous driving: We are approaching HD mapping in a unique, innovative way that is built for rapid expansion through custom-built machine learning tools and automation.
  • Aurora’s simulation engine: Accelerating development and validation through scalable simulation in virtual worlds: Simulation testing, which drives the development of the Aurora Driver, is the quickest and safest way to train and test our self-driving technology.
  • Interactive forecasting and learned decision making: Using machine learning to make better driving decisions: Our learned, interleaved approach to forecasting and planning allows the Aurora Driver to reason about how other vehicles behave and make safe, predictable decisions on the road.

Aurora shows Volvo VNL truck and Toyota Sienna, both powered by the Aurora Driver

We continue to make progress towards deploying an autonomous trucking business by late 2023 and ride-hailing in late 2024 through deep partnerships with truck manufacturers, PACCAR and Volvo Trucks, and automaker, Toyota.

At the event, we displayed two different vehicle prototypes, progress made via the Aurora Driver Development Program:

  • The Volvo VNL truck, powered by the Aurora Driver, is the design prototype of Volvo’s first autonomous truck, intended for commercial production. On-road testing of the fully integrated VNL will begin in 2022.

  • The Toyota Sienna, powered by the Aurora Driver, is the prototype of Toyota’s first “Sienna Autono-MaaS” intended for mass production. Aurora is currently integrating our Driver into the vehicle and will have a testing fleet of about a dozen vehicles out for testing and validation in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Texas. 

Aurora’s industry-leading safety work is critical to deploying self-driving technology at scale

Safety plays a key role in everything we do, from how we test and develop our technology to how we plan to deploy the Aurora Driver at scale. During the event, we highlighted our industry-leading work, including our Safety Management System and transparent and collaborative approach to working with private and public partners. We also featured an interactive demo of our Safety Case Framework, an imperative component for any company looking to operate without a safety driver and safely deliver commercial-ready self-driving vehicles at scale. We are the only company to share a framework that addresses both autonomous trucking and passenger mobility. 

Over the next few weeks and months, Aurora will continue to share more about our work as we deploy our technology safely, quickly, and broadly.


About Aurora

Founded in 2017 by experts in the self-driving industry, Aurora is on a mission to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. To move both people and goods, the company is building the Aurora Driver, a platform that brings together software, hardware and data services to autonomously operate passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles, and heavy-duty trucks. Aurora is backed by Sequoia Capital, Baillie Gifford, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, among others, and is partnered with industry leaders including Toyota, Uber, Volvo, and PACCAR. Aurora tests its vehicles in the Bay Area, Pittsburgh, and Dallas. The company has offices in those areas as well as in Bozeman, MT; Seattle, WA; Louisville, CO; and Wixom, MI. To learn more, visit www.aurora.tech.

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the Aurora Team

Delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly.