Aurora’s self-driving trucks are hauling goods for Uber Freight customers in Texas as part of a multiphase commercial pilot that aims to more closely integrate the two companies.
While the pilot was officially announced Wednesday, Aurora’s self-driving trucks, which always have two vehicle safety operators on board, have been working with Uber Freight for about a year, according to a spokesperson. The news marks a progression from those early tests to a formal commercial pilot.
Aurora is using the Uber Freight brokerage platform, which connects truck drivers with shippers that need cargo delivered, to haul freight for customers between Dallas and Houston. Aurora said it will expand routes as it adds more terminals.
Hauling goods via the Uber Freight platform is notable. The real opportunity, which the companies also plan to do, is to integrate Aurora’s trucking subscription service into Uber Freight. The trucking subscription service called Aurora Horizon can be thought of as an overarching digital and logistics companion to the self-driving system. Under Aurora Horizon are several other products, including a mission control system that integrates with a carrier or network’s system and app to communicate dispatching and routing, monitor vehicle health and handle incident response and a roadside assistance program.
Aurora plans to launch its autonomous trucking business by the end of 2023. If the pilot with Uber Freight succeeds, carriers with subscriptions to Aurora Horizon will be able to access Uber Freight to haul more goods. Aurora’s pitch is that this will improve efficiency for carriers and ensure trucking capacity isn’t underutilized.
The announcement Wednesday is also a reminder of Aurora and Uber’s close ties. Aurora acquired Uber ATG, the company’s self-driving unit, a year ago. As part of that complex deal, Aurora didn’t pay cash for Uber ATG. Instead, Uber handed over its equity in ATG and invested $400 million into Aurora, which gave it a 26% stake in the combined company. Aurora was privately held at the time, a status that changed in 2021 when it merged with a special purpose acquisition company. Aurora became a publicly traded company in November.
Meanwhile, Uber Freight has been making its own moves. The logistics business, which spun out of Uber in 2018, acquired Transplace for about $2.25 billion from private equity group TPG Capital earlier this year. The acquisition is part of Uber Freight’s aim to carve out market share in its existing markets and an expand into Mexico.