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Aurora and Volvo partner to bring autonomous long-haul trucks to North America

The autonomous vehicle startup Aurora Innovation said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with Volvo to jointly develop autonomous semi trucks for North America.

The partnership, which the two companies say will span several years and is through Volvo’s Autonomous Solutions unit, will focus on trucks built to operate autonomously on highways between hubs for Volvo customers. The Aurora Driver technology stack – Aurora’s self-driving software, computer and sensor suite – will be integrated into Volvo trucks.

The announcement comes fresh on the heels of the startup’s recent acquisition of Uber’s self-driving subsidiary and a separate deal with Toyota to develop self-driving minivans. Aurora now has partnerships with two of the three largest trucking manufacturers – Paccar and Volvo – that produce and sell nearly 50% of all Class 8 trucks in the country.

“Our previously announced collaborations with partners such as PACCAR will continue in parallel to the collaboration with Volvo,” an Aurora spokesperson told TechCrunch. “As Paccar’s first self-driving technology partner, the unique nature of our partnership enables us to build Paccar’s first redundant truck that will be able to operate without a safety driver, bring it to market first, and deploy it broadly.”

Aurora said its Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave lidar  — through its acquisitions of companies Blackmore and OURS Technology — will be key to solving autonomous long-range trucking. Lidar, or light detection and ranging radar, is considered to be a necessary component of self-driving systems. Aurora’s pitch’s is that unlike traditional time-of-flight lidar, its technology provides the long-range visibility needed to be able to spot hazards with enough time to stop or slow down.

The announcement also marks a major acceleration for Volvo’s autonomous vehicle arm, Volvo Autonomous Solutions. It’s the business unit’s first deal to bring autonomous trucking to the road.

Since its founding in 2017, Aurora has rapidly become one of the leaders in self-driving tech, attracting backing from Amazon, Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners. The company was founded by former executives of Uber, Tesla and Google.