Japan’s Toyota Motor and Aurora, a US developer of automated driving systems, have begun testing an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Texas, with two security operators and no passengers on board, Aurora said Tuesday.
Toyota’s Sienna minivans, retrofitted with Aurora’s self-driving system, will be tested on freeways and suburban roads in the Dallas-Fort-Worth area, with operations including trips en route to an airport.
Autonomous vehicle startups are under pressure to generate meaningful revenue from billions of dollars in engineering investments, but scaling the fleet is a challenge as technology hurdles remain.
“The route demonstrates Aurora’s ability to safely drive at highway speeds, a key technical differentiator that allows it to prioritize popular and lucrative trips,” the US company said in a statement.
Aurora’s rival Waymo charges passengers in its driverless minivans for travel in limited suburban areas of Phoenix, and airport pickups aren’t available.
Waymo said Monday it was ready to deploy driverless vehicles in the densely populated city of San Francisco, without giving a timeframe for launch.
Aurora, led by Chris Urmson, a former head of Google’s self-driving car project that has since become Waymo, said it plans to continue adding vehicles to its fleet in preparation for commercial launch on ride-hailing networks like Uber.
Aurora bought Uber’s autonomous vehicle unit ATG in 2020, while the ride-hailing giant acquired a 26% stake in Aurora.
© Thomson Reuters 2022