Autonomous & Self-Driving Vehicle News: TIER IV, Aurora, Ford & NHTSA.

In autonomous and self-driving vehicle news are TIER IV, Aurora, Ford and NHTSA.

TIER IV in Japan

TIER IV, a pioneer in open-source autonomous driving (AD) technology, announced an exciting initiative aimed at shaping the future of highway trucking. In response to driver shortage challenges facing Japan’s cargo industry, the company is set to develop a new function for highway trucking and conduct proof of concept (PoC) tests on Japan’s public highways, starting from fiscal year 2024. By developing a reference design for commercial truck manufacturers, TIER IV is fully dedicated to facilitating the deployment of autonomous driving.

The reference design will encompass the core functionalities of the open-source software, Autoware*, as well as advanced features developed through collaborations with partner companies. For the upcoming PoC tests, TIER IV is integrating the Mapless Autonomy Platform from a German start-up, driveblocks, into its AD software. Using driveblocks’ software allows AD platforms to navigate using perception, rather than high-definition (HD) maps, a method proven effective in Europe’s challenging routes, such as the Brenner Pass.

The integration of driveblocks’ technology is particularly valuable for TIER IV’s highway trucking initiative, as it creates a redundant safety layer and a secondary path for situations where HD maps become unavailable or outdated, including new construction areas. Recent closed-loop PoC tests conducted on a multi-lane test track in Japan demonstrated the combined power of the companies’ technologies for highway trucking scenarios.

TIER IV and driveblocks have also conducted a PoC test on highways, achieving reliable perception and accurate road corridor modeling at speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour (kph) under various driving conditions, including standard highway scenarios and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)-denied environments like tunnels and other low-light settings. TIER IV will place a strong emphasis on continuing to develop robust object detection capabilities, enabling autonomous trucks to perceive their surroundings and navigate safely on the highway, especially in complex scenarios with diverse objects like merging vehicles and debris.

Through this new initiative, TIER IV is poised to steer the deployment of autonomous driving for highway trucking, making a significant leap forward in the industry.

*Autoware is a registered trademark of The Autoware Foundation.

Aurora Releases White Paper

Aurora Innovation, Inc. (NASDAQ: AUR) has released a white paper indicating that autonomous trucking has the potential for significant environmental benefits. The paper finds that autonomous trucking could increase energy efficiency by up to 32% relative to traditional trucking – helping the freight and logistics industry reduce emissions, meet environmental regulatory mandates, and bring down operating costs.

Transportation is a Significant Source of Emissions

Transportation makes up approximately 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and, of this, medium and heavy duty trucks account for 23%. In some freight-heavy states, this number is even greater – transportation causes approximately 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in California.

Autonomous Trucking Technology Can Help Fight Climate Change

There is a need for new technologies that reduce freight transportation’s negative impact on climate change. As Aurora advances toward driverless commercial operations, the company has examined ways to maximize the environmental benefits of autonomous trucks. The white paper identifies seven opportunities to use autonomous trucking to make freight transportation more energy efficient, including*:

  • Optimizing Highway Speeds: Autonomous trucks are not limited by hours-of-service restrictions, meaning there is less incentive to drive at high speeds to reach their destination faster. This enables lower speed driving that consumes less fuel per mile. Aurora’s approach of driving 65 mph instead of 70-75 mph on the highway could reduce highway fuel consumption by 9%-17%.
  • Limiting Idling: Today’s trucks often consume fuel by idling when drivers take breaks to rest, eat, or relax between hauls. This represents 4%-9% of fuel consumption. While autonomous trucks cannot completely eliminate idling, they could better maximize driving time.
  • Eco-Driving: Significant automotive energy usage comes from inefficient acceleration and braking. Autonomous trucks are capable of eco-driving – strategically optimizing acceleration, braking, and coasting to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel consumption. One study cited in the white paper found increased strategic coasting could lead to 9.5% fuel savings.
  • Traffic Reduction: Because autonomous trucks can operate nearly 24 hours per day, they can shift a greater proportion of freight to off-peak driving hours. Not only would this reduce autonomous trucks’ fuel consumption by decreasing time stuck in traffic, shifting a portion of truck traffic to off-peak hours would help reduce congestion and fuel consumption for other vehicles.

Additionally, the white paper explains how the introduction of autonomous trucks into the supply chain can be a longer-term catalyst for accelerated adoption of next-generation powertrains, like battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell platforms, given the following:

  • Faster Return on Investment: New powertrains will likely have higher upfront costs, and the lower operating costs and higher utilization of autonomous trucks could enable faster returns on those investments.
  • Better Range Management: Because autonomous trucks are not restricted by hours-of-service limitations, they can better manage range and charging/fueling limitations of next-generation platforms.
  • Fixed Routes: The fixed route model of deploying autonomous trucks supports focused installation of charging/fueling infrastructure along these routes.

Aurora is Developing Safe, Efficient, and Sustainable Autonomous Trucks

“As autonomous trucks make hauling freight safer, we have a responsibility to make logistics more sustainable as well. Self-driving technology can fight climate change by increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions in the supply chain,” shared Garrett Bray, the author of the white paper. Bray is a Product Director at Aurora, and holds a PhD in Engineering and a Masters in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge.

For carriers, autonomous trucks’ more efficient fuel consumption could reduce operating costs, and reductions in emissions would help meet federal and state environmental regulatory mandates. For more information on how Aurora prioritizes safety and efficiency, visit

*The fuel consumption metrics for optimizing highway speeds, limiting idling, and eco-driving are not additive, and are independent of the autonomous trucking energy efficiency calculation included at the top of this press release. More information on these metrics can be found in the white paper.

Indy Autonomous Challenge in Indianapolis

The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) will make a grand return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) “The Racing Capital of the World” on September 6th, 2024. The competition is set to be a landmark event, featuring a head-to-head race of the world’s fastest autonomous racecars piloted by AI driver software developed by 10 teams representing 18 top universities from North America, Europe, and Asia.

History was made at IMS in October 2021 when IAC organized the world’s first head-to-head high-speed autonomous racing competition. Since then, IAC has organized five races at iconic tracks, including Las Vegas Motor Speedway during CES and the Monza F1 Circuit in Italy. IAC and its university teams have achieved a long list of world records for high-speed ground-based autonomy. World records include the autonomous land speed record (192.2 mph), the top speed on-track (180 mph), the fastest on-track head-to-head overtake (177 mph), and most miles of autonomous racing (7,500 miles).

NHTSA Investigates Mach-e Mustang Blue Cruise

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received notice of two (2) incidents involving Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles that collided with stationary vehicles, which were located within the travel lanes of controlled-access highways. Both collisions occurred during nighttime lighting conditions, and each incident resulted in at least one fatality. The incident reports received by NHTSA were submitted under Standing General Order 2021-01 (SGO). ODI’s initial investigation of both incidents confirmed that BlueCruise was engaged in each of the subject vehicles immediately prior to the collision.

Ford vehicles equipped with Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 have a suite of driver assistance technologies including partial driving automation features that provide lane and speed maintenance with the expectation that the driver actively supervises the system’s performance. One such feature, BlueCruise, is only available on certain roadways and uses a camera-based driver monitoring system to determine driver attentiveness to the roadway. BlueCruise was introduced in model year 2021 and is currently available in a range of Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

ODI has opened this Preliminary Evaluation to investigate the Ford BlueCruise system equipped on the subject vehicles. This investigation will evaluate the system’s performance of the dynamic driving task and driver monitoring. The SGO reports cited in the Opening Resume can be found in the investigation file at under the following titles: