Tue, 27 Sep 2022

DALLAS, Texas: Japan's Toyota Motor Company and Aurora Innovation, an American developer of automated driving systems, have begun testing an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Texas, with two safety operators and no passengers on board, Aurora announced this week.

Retrofitted with Aurora's self-driving system, Toyota's Sienna minivans will be tested on highways and suburban streets in the Dallas-Fort-Worth area, including trips to an airport.

While autonomous vehicle startups are under pressure to generate revenue from billions of dollars of engineering investment, scaling up the fleet will pose challenges, as technological issues remain.

In a statement, Aurora said, "The route showcases Aurora's ability to safely operate at highway speeds, a key technical differentiator that allows it to prioritize popular and lucrative rides."

Waymo, Aurora's rival, charges passengers using its driverless minivans for rides in limited suburban areas of Phoenix, Arizona, and airport pickups are not available.

This week, without releasing a time frame for the launch, Waymo announced that it is ready to deploy driverless vehicles in densely populated San Francisco.

Headd by Chris Urmson, a former head of Google's self-driving car project, Aurora said it plans to continue adding vehicles to the fleet, in preparation for the commercial launch on ride-hailing networks, such as Uber.

In 2020, Aurora bought Uber's autonomous vehicle unit ATGin, while the ride-hailing giant had acquired a 26 percent ownership interest in Aurora.

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