Aurora launches autonomous freight pilot with Werner, expands terminal network

Aurora Innovation is launching its third autonomous freight pilot in Texas. Starting this week, Aurora Driver-powered trucks will haul loads for Werner Enterprises, a transportation and logistics company, between Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas.

The startup is already hauling freight for Uber Freight customers and for FedEx, a less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. LTL freight refers to when an order shares a truck with other shippers’ orders. Werner will be Aurora’s first full-truckload (FTL) carrier customer, which means the truck will only carry one load and thus will be making longer, more dedicated hauls with fewer stops, allowing Aurora to flex its long-haul muscles. Like many AV trucking companies, Aurora is hoping to address long-haul freight first, in large part because they are the least desirable routes for human drivers.

The pilot with Werner will also be the first time Aurora has publicly announced piloting its driver on the startup’s new Fort Worth to El Paso lane, which is over 600 miles long. It takes nine hours to traverse the lane, which sits in the middle third of Atlanta to Los Angeles, making it one of the busiest commercial corridors in the country.

Aurora said it is also opening up three new terminals in Fort Worth, El Paso and Houston to support multiple commercial lanes.

The collaboration with Werner is strategic because it allows Aurora to broaden its customer ecosystem to include a range of carrier types, the company said.

While in the near term, the pilot will involve human safety operators accompanying each truck on weekly hauls to take over or assist if necessary, Aurora and Werner hope to explore further autonomy while also increasing the frequency of loads.

Alongside its partnership announcement with Werner, Aurora said on Wednesday that Kendra Phillips, former chief technology officer at Ryder, has joined Aurora as VP of logistics partner programs and operations. Phillips will help create Aurora’s terminal service blueprint and build out Aurora’s roadside assistance program, according to the company.