Hirschbach Motor Lines
Aurora 2023 Announce Hirschbach

Hirschbach, Aurora pilot autonomous reefer truck

May 5, 2023
A Peterbilt 579 upfitted with the Aurora Driver now is hauling perishable goods between Dallas and Houston in a new commercial test of the driverless technology.

Hirschbach Motor Lines and Aurora Innovation began testing an autonomous refrigerated truck this week as part of a new commercial pilot program. The Peterbilt 579 featuring the Aurora Driver is hauling temperature-controlled cargo between Dallas and Houston to demonstrate Aurora’s ability to safely support critical, time-sensitive shipments.

“Since joining Aurora’s Industry Advisory Council, I have had a front-row seat to the positive impact of autonomous technology,” Richard Stocking, co-CEO of Hirschbach, said in a news release. “Autonomous trucks will provide safe and reliable capacity to supplement our existing network of incredible company drivers.

“We will identify opportunities that will expand autonomous capabilities across Hirschbach’s network that will hopefully supplement our drivers from monotonous stretches of highway and allow them to spend more time with their families.”

The pilot will help Aurora expand the network of carriers and shippers who can benefit from the advantages of its Aurora Horizon autonomous trucking service, according to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company. Aurora’s new, next-generation terminal in Dallas is designed to support advanced commercial driverless operations that maximize efficiency for a variety of customers, including refrigerated carriers.

Aurora Driver-equipped tractors with Hirschbach refrigerated trailers started to make the 400-mile round-trip along the I-45 corridor between Aurora’s Houston and South Dallas terminals this week, the company reported.

“This new pilot, on the Peterbilt 579 upfit with the Aurora Driver, demonstrates the increasing maturity of our operations as we expand our product support to a wider number of carriers and shippers,” said David Maday, senior vice president of business development and product strategy at Aurora. “We are extremely excited that Hirschbach has the confidence in Aurora’s technology and our ability to deliver perishable goods safely and on time.”

Refrigerated autonomous trucks capable of operating at nearly all hours of the day have the potential to move goods in record time, increase the shelf life of fresh produce, drive down the costs of goods for consumers, and ultimately lead to fresher food and less waste, the partners maintained. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 30-40% of nationwide food supply results in the spoilage of perishable goods, which occurs, among other ways, at various stages of the production and supply chain.

Aurora recently announced the Aurora Driver is feature complete and has entered its final phase of refinement and validation ahead of commercial launch in 2024. By the end of the year, Aurora expects to close the Aurora Driver Safety Case for driverless operations on its launch lane between Dallas and Houston.

In parallel, the company plans to continue maturing operations as pilot load volume is expected to increase to 100 loads per week by the end of 2023.

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