Aurora unveils fleet management platform to optimize autonomous operations - Peter Jonathan Wilcheck
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Aurora unveils fleet management platform to optimize autonomous operations

Autonomous vehicle technology company Aurora Innovation has unveiled a fleet management system that can be used to help optimize operations for the startup’s trucking and ride-hailing products.

Aurora announced the platform, named Aurora Beacon, alongside its first-quarter earnings report on Wednesday, during which the company presented investors with a series of milestones on its path to commercializing its trucking product, Aurora Horizon, and launching its ride-hail product, Aurora Connect, both of which rely on the same autonomous stack.

Once Aurora reaches commercialization, Beacon will give customers access to real-time data of their vehicles, such as health, status and current location, as well as real-time alerts about things like vehicle status, ETA, traffic conditions, updates to missions and major weather events, the company says. All of these tools will be in addition to Beacon’s ability to schedule, dispatch, monitor and coordinate fleets, which Aurora is already using on fleet operations today.

One real-world example Aurora gave is in the event of a tire with low air pressure; an alert will be sent to the fleet manager, who can then redirect the vehicle to a nearby service center.

The startup has active commercial pilots today with FedEx, Uber Freight and, most recently, Werner Enterprises — all three of which involve hauling freight autonomously in Texas, but it’s not yet clear if the company is currently using Beacon with those clients. However, the learnings from those partnerships helped inform the creation of Beacon, the company said.

“This level of insight into and control over the real-time location, status, and objectives of autonomous vehicles will help Aurora’s customers maximize their utilization and responsiveness to shifting conditions and network demands,” Aurora said in a statement.

Beacon also provides remote support in the event that an Aurora Driver-powered vehicle encounters a situation that it hasn’t run into before and can’t figure out, like getting pulled over by law enforcement, something AV peer Cruise has recently dealt with.

Eventually, as the company approaches commercial deployment, Beacon is meant to be offered alongside the Aurora Driver, the company’s self-driving system, as a product that can be incorporated via API into the existing systems of carriers, fleets and networks, according to Aurora.

Aurora Q1 2022 Financials

Aurora closed out the first quarter of the year with an operating loss of $143 million, which is down from $192 million during the same quarter last year. Similarly, its net loss this quarter was $77 million, down from $189 million last year.

The company ended the quarter with nearly $42 million in “collaboration revenue” for development work associated with the company’s agreement with Toyota, which will support its planned ride-hailing product. In March, the company unveiled its test fleet of six Toyota Sienna robotaxis, which will be tested in Texas on high-speed routes.

Ultimately, collaboration revenue is not revenue, and as a pre-revenue company, Aurora declined to provide any guidance, allowing the company to finish its call, including Q&A, in about 30 minutes.

Aurora ended the quarter with $1.5 billion in cash and short-term investments, money that the company will use to continue to develop the Aurora Driver for scaled commercial deployment, focusing on getting its trucking product to market first. The company also expects to get an additional $52 million in cash from Toyota over the remainder of the year, which should help it to develop its ride-hailing product further, according to Richard Tame, Aurora’s CFO.

Aurora shares are up slightly after hours, and are currently trading at $4.10 at the time of this writing.

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