Transportation

FedEx launches autonomous truck routes

A Fed Ex truck is seen in downtown Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Greg Nash

FedEx on Wednesday launched a new initiative that will test autonomous truck routes between Dallas and Houston.

FedEx said it is collaborating with Aurora, an autonomous technology developer, and PACCAR, a medium-and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer, to launch the testing program, of which the pilot began on Wednesday.

The companies will use Aurora’s autonomous driving technology in PACCAR’s Autonomous Vehicle Platform within FedEx trucking operations, according to FedEx.

FedEx said the trucks will complete an almost 500-mile round trip route multiple times every week. While they will be running autonomously, the trucks will have a backup driver for safety.

The first fleet will have a “modest” number of autonomous trucks, MarketWatch reported, citing an Aurora spokeswoman.

The initiative, which FedEx said is a “first of its kind agreement,” will work to quicken the development and scaled development of autonomous driving technology in a way that is safe and thoughtful.

“This is an exciting, industry-first collaboration that will work toward enhancing the logistics industry through safer, more efficient transportation of goods and we are pleased to collaborate with other industry leaders – Aurora and PACCAR – on this endeavor,” Rebecca Yeung, vice president of advanced technology and innovation at FedEx Corporation, said in a statement.

Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s chief product officer, said the partnership will help deliver a “cohesive and integrated product and service.” 

“As leaders in our respective fields, we have critical and unique perspectives on how to develop and deploy safe, self-driving truck solutions for this industry,” Anderson said in a statement. 

“This collaboration allows for the creation of a cohesive and integrated product and service. We believe there is no other credible way to deliver this complex and valuable technology at scale,” he added.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill made a push to pass federal legislation that would regulate self-driving cars earlier this year, but those efforts were ultimately stymied as Congress shifted its focus to other issues amid the pandemic.

The lack of federal guidelines on autonomous vehicles, however, leaves the door open for states to enact their own regulations, which could make matters more complicated.

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