Aurora Unveils Ride-Hailing Test Fleet

  • March 28, 2022
  • William Payne

Texas based self driving developer Aurora has unveiled a test fleet of autonomous custom designed Toyota Sienna vehicles. The product of an ongoing partnership with Toyota Motor North America, the new vehicles feature Toyota’s Vehicle Control Interface (VCI) and “Sienna Autono-Maas” (S-AM) platform.

The Toyota S-AM will serve as the backbone platform for the expected launch of Aurora Connect, its autonomous ride-hailing product.

Aurora has worked with Toyota Motor North America’s (Toyota) engineering team over the last year to establish requirements to prepare this vehicle model platform to integrate with the Aurora Driver. Since unveiling its prototype last fall, Aurora has refined the Aurora Driver hardware while Toyota built a larger fleet of platform vehicles at its facilities, customised for the requirements of its customers, including Aurora.

Aurora is autonomously testing the fleet on highways and suburban streets in Texas, where the Aurora Driver regularly handles Texas U-turns, high-speed merges, and lane changes, including those in response to vehicles on the shoulder. The Aurora Driver is also able to react to various forms of construction, stop-and-go traffic, inclement weather, and can detect pedestrians, motorcyclists, traffic lights, and more.

Toyota executives were invited to be the first to experience the Aurora Driver in the Toyota S-AM. The riders were picked up at Toyota’s Headquarters and then driven autonomously on a portion of the route that would normally be taken to the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

The route was chosen to showcase the new vehicles’ ability to operate safely at highway speeds, according to Aurora a key technical differentiator that allows it to prioritise popular rides like trips to the airport, when it launches Aurora Connect.

“We congratulate Aurora on reaching their milestone of integrating its Aurora Driver technology onto our Toyota Autono-MaaS platform vehicle,” said Ted Ogawa, President and CEO of Toyota Motor North America. “The route represented what we would expect going to the airport in the future, and we look forward to seeing Aurora’s future deployment plans.”

“Toyota’s engineering team is truly world-class. Experiencing the result together this week was special and is a testament to our progress and respect for one other,” said Sterling Anderson, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder at Aurora. “We’ve designed and delivered a purpose-built test fleet specifically for a ride-hailing experience that’s comfortable, convenient, and safe, and we look forward to sharing more on our progress soon.”

Aurora has shared technology used in Aurora’s self driving trucks, allowing the cars to acquire all the learnings and capabilities of the trucks. The modified Toyota Sienna vehicles achieved “parity” with Aurora’s trucks within six weeks of commencing on-road testing. Aurora plans to continue adding vehicles to the fleet and testing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in preparation for commercial launch.