Self-driving startup Aurora Innovation Inc. reached a milestone Monday, declaring its autonomous driving system is now "feature complete" and possesses the capabilities needed for commercial service.
It's a notable benchmark in the company's efforts to launch a self-driving truck business by the end of 2024. But refining the technology comprises only one part of Aurora's ongoing preparations.
Concurrently, the company has addressed another operational challenge on routes across the American Southwest, including Texas.
Since August, Aurora has collaborated on a first-of-its-kind pilot project with U.S. Border Patrol exploring how self-driving trucks navigate border immigration checkpoints.
These are not international border crossings. Rather, they are inland checkpoints located 25 to 100 miles from the nation's southern and northern borders that the U.S. Border Patrol uses to deter illegal immigration, smuggling and terrorism. U.S. Border Patrol operates 35 of these checkpoints on major U.S. highways and secondary roads, according to the federal agency, a division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Some are located along routes Aurora and its competitors are eyeing for future commercial activity, particularly in Texas, a hotbed for autonomous truck testing.
"If you are not prepared to handle these Border Patrol checkpoints, you're not going to be able to expand," Gerardo Interiano, vice president of public affairs and government relations at Aurora, told Automotive News.
Aurora's first planned route, between Dallas and Houston, is unaffected by the inland checkpoints. But there's one along Interstate 10 in Sierra Blanca, Texas, on a planned route between El Paso and Fort Worth.