Toyota and Aurora Innovation, the US developer of automated driving systems, have started testing an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Texas. The hybrid electric cars are built on Toyota’s “Sienna Autono-MaaS” (S-AM) platform, retrofitted with Aurora’s self-driving system which relies on its proprietary FirstLight LiDAR for safe driving at highway speeds.

The Aurora Driver vehicles are equipped with the same software and hardware as Aurora’s Class 8 trucks and a key objective of the trial is to prove the transferability of its common core technology across two significant markets — trucking and passenger mobility.

The pilot routes are on public highways and suburban streets in the Dallas-Fort-Worth area, with the operation including airport trips. The vehicles are currently operating with two safety operators, but as yet, no passengers are on board. Aurora says it plans to launch its commercial ride-hailing service Aurora Connect in 2024.

The test route requires cars to manoeuvre Texas U-turns (an unusual road configuration also known as a loop around), high-speed merges, and lane changes. The vehicles have also responded to vehicles on the hard shoulder, various forms of construction, stop-and-go traffic, inclement weather, pedestrians, motorcyclists, traffic lights, and more.

“The route showcases Aurora’s ability to safely operate at highway speeds, a key technical differentiator that allows it to prioritise popular and lucrative rides,” Aurora said in a statement.

Ted Ogawa, President and CEO of Toyota Motor North America said, “We congratulate Aurora on reaching their milestone of integrating its Aurora Driver technology onto our Toyota Autono-MaaS platform vehicle. We look forward to seeing Aurora’s future deployment plans.”

Sterling Anderson, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder at Aurora added, “Toyota’s engineering team is truly world-class. We’ve designed and delivered a purpose-built test fleet specifically for a ride-hailing experience that’s comfortable, convenient, and safe, and we look forward to sharing more on our progress soon.”

Aurora plans to continue adding vehicles to the fleet and testing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in preparation for commercial launch.

Featured at MOVE!
Chris Urmson, Co-founder and CEO of Aurora Innovation is presenting the opening keynote on day one at MOVE in London on 15/16 June. Toyota’s Chief Scientist, Gill Pratt is opening day two. With over 600 speakers across 33 themed stages MOVE is the world’s most important mobility event. Find further details here: