Peterbilt, Aurora Reveal SAE Level 4 Autonomous Truck

Advanced autonomous drive system, Aurora Driver, makes its commercial truck debut in a Peterbilt Model 579 as a result of the companies’ strategic partnership.

The new Model 579 is the first commercial-truck application for Aurora Drive and its Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave lidar. (Peterbilt)

Peterbilt and Aurora have unveiled an autonomous-capable truck at CES 2022 in Las Vegas. The autonomous drive system, dubbed Aurora Driver, is making its commercial truck debut in a Peterbilt Model 579 truck. The system is capable of SAE Level 4 autonomous operation and was developed and integrated into the truck in partnership with Aurora.

FMCW lidar provides very accurate velocity for each data point instantaneously, which helps Aurora’s perception system process incoming data faster. (Aurora)

Aurora announced its strategic partnership with PACCAR in the first quarter of 2021 with the intention to develop and deliver vehicles for the company’s first commercial truck application. The Model 579 also was introduced in early 2021 and was touted by the company as “the most technologically advanced truck Peterbilt has ever built.” Peterbilt states that the new Model 579 features major improvements to attributes such as aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, driver comfort and longer service intervals for increased uptime.

“As an industry leader in safety and technology, Peterbilt has a rich history of delivering customers trucks outfitted with the very highest level of safety systems and technologic advancements,” said Jason Skoog, Peterbilt general manager and PACCAR vice president. “The New Model 579 with Aurora’s technology is a perfect representation of the continuation of this history.”

The new Model 579 offers a “technologically advanced” platform on which to add the Aurora Drive autonomous system, though the production truck focuses squarely on the driver with an all-new digital dash with customizable interface. (Peterbilt)

Aurora began testing its systems in Class 8 Peterbilt trucks in 2020 in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. These were the first major tests of its system on open roads. Aurora claims to maintain a network of roughly half a dozen closed testing sites in Texas, California and Pennsylvania to develop and validate its systems for a variety of applications.

One of the important and unique components of Aurora’s system is its Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) lidar. This perception system reportedly can detect and track objects at greater distances, at faster speeds and more precisely than AM-frequency lidar systems. The Aurora Driver has a visual range of nearly 1000 ft (305 meters) and can detect even non-reflective objects at that range.

The system utilizes sensors that are single photon sensitive, which can detect very small volumes of light. Aurora’s FMCW lidar also operates around the 1550-nm wavelength band, allowing the sensors to broadcast stronger light pulses while still meeting eye safety standards.

“Our partnership with PACCAR to co-develop self-driving Class 8 trucks builds on a deep technical foundation and years of collective expertise,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora chief product officer and co-founder. “The team is making progress as we prepare to launch Peterbilt’s first autonomous trucks at scale. Together, we’re building a product and business that will make our roads safer and our supply chains more efficient.”