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Aurora perfects the tech it takes to stop a self-driving truck


Aurora said the company met this milestone earlier than expected because it is ahead of schedule on safety research. This is a result, in part, of its Virtual Testing Suite, an in-house simulation tool that checks new capabilities before they’re deployed in the real world. In the case of the Fault Management System, Aurora said it conducted hundreds of thousands of simulation tests before its demonstration in Texas in June. The company has long viewed its simulation tech as a core strength and differentiator.

Aurora also said it has made system development the core of its Fail-Safe principle.

“Most of the time, we talk about these sexy machine-learning, computer-vision types of problems, which are obviously important,” Aurora CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson said in May. “To actually have a commercially viable product, you have to deal with what happens when the product breaks in some way.”

Aurora is not alone in both pushing to develop fail-safe, self-driving big rigs and demonstrating the technology in the real world. In May, Kodiak Robotics conducted a public demonstration by disabling an ethernet cable that’s part of its self-driving system and showed a video of a Class 8 truck with its technology pulling onto the shoulder along Interstate 45 near Dallas. Google offshoot Waymo says it regularly tests its trucks in minimal-risk conditions on closed courses, planning for trucks to either pull to the shoulder or off the road at the nearest exit.

“Our Fault Management System enables the Aurora Driver to responsibly handle a range of on-road circumstances — detecting, diagnosing and responding to system issues with a focus on safe, reliable driving,” Nat Beuse, the company’s vice president of safety, wrote in an email to Automotive News. “This development is part of our comprehensive, responsible approach to safety, and a core component of how we will deploy autonomous vehicles for commercial use.”

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