Werner Enterprises in partnership with autonomous vehicle tech company Aurora Innovation, Inc. launched a commercial pilot program in Texas.

The two companies said that starting this week, trucks outfitted with Aurora autonomous truck technology are hauling loads for customers between Fort Worth and El Paso. This 600 mile lane represents the middle leg of one of the busiest commercial thoroughfares for Werner and the U.S. trucking industry — Atlanta to Los Angeles.

For now, a safety driver remains on board in case of emergency, but Werner and Aurora say that they are exploring “further autonomy for vehicles in this lane.”

The companies say that they chose the Fort Worth to El Paso lane in part because it is unpopular with human truck drivers:

The Fort Worth to El Paso lane is over 600 miles and takes approximately nine hours to complete. Its long-distance and monotony contribute to this lane’s reputation for being unappealing for truck drivers. By deploying the Aurora Driver on such hauls, Aurora and the companies it is working with are building a future in which autonomous trucks can handle less popular routes, while human drivers transport more convenient hauls that are conducive to desirable lifestyles.

“Werner has a long history of pioneering new technology within the industry,” said Werner’s Chairman, President and CEO Derek Leathers. “This collaboration and pilot with Aurora is another step forward in our commitment to sustainability and safety for our drivers, customers and the motoring public through innovation. We look forward to building a hybrid world where drivers continue to haul freight while autonomous trucks supplement rising demand.”

“We’re proud to partner with Werner to bring the game-changing safety, efficiency, and reliability benefits of self-driving technology to their business,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora’s Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer. “We look forward to maturing and streamlining these hybrid operations and ultimately delivering a product that delivers value to Werner and its customers at a large scale.”

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