Aurora Innovation, Inc. and Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc., a frontrunner in refrigerated trucking, have revealed that they have embarked on a commercial pilot project this week. The pilot aims to test and safely introduce autonomous trucking for refrigerated cargo traveling between Dallas and Houston. The autonomous trucking service, Aurora Horizon, will be utilized, broadening the carrier and shipper network that can leverage its benefits.
Why It Matters
The collaboration is critical as it will provide an opportunity for Hirschbach to supplement its existing network with safe and reliable autonomous trucking capacity. As Richard Stocking, co-CEO of Hirschbach, explains, autonomous trucks will not only alleviate the monotony of long highway stretches for their drivers but also allow them more time for their families. On the other hand, Aurora’s Senior Vice President, David Maday, acknowledges the increasing maturity of their operations and product support expansion to a wider carrier and shipper network.
The pilot leverages the Peterbilt 579 equipped with the Aurora Driver, highlighting the growth of autonomous operations. The challenge of delivering perishable goods autonomously without spoilage necessitates mature operations and sophisticated technology, which Aurora’s new, next-generation trucking terminal in Dallas is specifically designed to support.
Aurora-equipped tractors partnered with Hirschbach refrigerated trailers have already started making the 400-mile round trip along the I-45 corridor between Aurora’s Houston and South Dallas terminals. These refrigerated autonomous trucks, with the potential to operate at nearly all hours of the day, could move goods in record time, extend the shelf life of fresh produce, reduce consumer costs, and ultimately lead to fresher food and less waste.
Autonomous trucking has the potential to transform the supply chain industry, especially in the movement of perishable goods. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30-40 percent of the nationwide food supply results in perishable goods spoilage. As such, the Aurora-Hirschbach partnership could significantly reduce this figure, thereby reducing waste and improving efficiency.
As Aurora Innovation approaches its commercial launch in 2024, it has announced the Aurora Driver is Feature Complete and is now in its final phase of refinement and validation. The company anticipates closing the Aurora Driver Safety Case for driverless operations on its launch lane between Dallas and Houston by year-end. Concurrently, the company plans to increase its pilot load volume to 100 loads per week by the end of 2023, further maturing its operations.