Skip to main content

Interstate 45: the Country’s Driverless-Trucking Testing Grounds

Published Jan 10, 2022 by David Ruiz

Houston Skyline + Freeway

North Houston Interstate 45

The stretch of Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas is becoming a testing ground for driverless 18-wheelers. These big rigs are driving themselves between destinations hundreds of miles apart, positioning the Houston-Dallas corridor as a pivotal setting in the country’s automated vehicle revolution.

In September, autonomous vehicle (AV) company Aurora announced a partnership with FedEx and PACCAR to lead their driverless testing. These innovative medium-haul trips are mostly conducted by Aurora’s software, and safety drivers will remain in the trucks into late 2023. 

VP of Government Relations and Public Affairs Gerardo Interiano said Texas is the ideal testing ground for Aurora’s trucking service. “Trucking is the backbone of our economy, and Texas moves more goods by truck than any other state,” Interiano said. According to the 2017 U.S. Census, Texas ranked No. 1 in total weight of truck shipments with 1.3 billion tons of goods, establishing its superiority with a 719.4 million-ton margin from runner-up California.

Interiano also complimented Texas’ culture of innovation. “It’s a welcoming state for new technologies, which is advantageous as we refine and deploy our technology and service with a trusted transportation company like FedEx,” he said. 

In November, autonomous driving tech development company Waymo expanded their partnership with shipping giant UPS to test driverless freight trucks along the I-45 stretch. 

Product Manager at Waymo Pablo Abad said the state laws supporting driverless vehicles help the commercialization in Texas. “Whenever we go to a particular market or think about implementing the Waymo driver, we have to look at the regulations to see how favorably they view autonomous tech,” Abad told the Houston Chronicle. “Texas has been very helpful on that side.” 

The Partnership supported legislation related to AV operations during the 87th Legislative Session. 

Amid the autonomous big rig competition, other AV companies have also announced expansions into the Houston market. Google-backed Nuro, an active member of the Partnership’s Policy Committee, announced an expansion in November, while San Francisco-based Embark Trucks announced their Houston expansion in December. 

The AV competition grants Texas a front row seat to the continuing development of autonomous tech, bolstering Houston’s position as an innovation hub. 

Learn more about Houston’s innovation ecosystem and what makes the region a great place for business.

Related News

Digital Technology

Metro Houston Leads Texas in Tech Job Growth

9/7/22
Houston is among the leading U.S. cities when it comes to tech job growth, according to a new report.  The Bayou City ranks No. 1 in Texas and No. 5 nationwide in terms of increase in tech job postings between the first six months of 2021 and the same period earlier this year. That’s according to a new report from the tech site Dice which found that tech job postings rose 83% year-to-year.  See number of Houston area posts by month since January 2021.  Other Texas cities showed significant increases in postings with San Antonio coming in at No. 6 nationwide with an 80% jump and Dallas at No. 15 on the list with a 58% increase in posts. With a 111% increase in tech job posts, Orlando was No. 1 on the Dice list.  The report shows that tech job postings increased 52% nationwide year-over-year.  Houston also ranks among the top 10 cities in terms of total tech job postings, coming in at No. 9. When it comes to states, Texas is behind only California in total tech job postings.  There are more than 243,000 tech jobs in Houston representing nearly 8% of the total metro workforce, according to a recent analysis by the Partnership.  Several tech companies are among Houston’s largest employers including Asurion, AWS, Dell, High Radius, HPE, HP Inc., IBM, PROS, BMC Software, Siemens, Honeywell, Oracle and Microsoft. At least two dozen VC-backed startups valued over $100 million are based in the metro area. Over the last five years Houston startups have received roughly $4.35 billion in venture funding, including $2.02 billion last year alone.  Learn more about Houston's digital tech sector. 
Read More
Digital Technology

Houston's Startup Ecosystem on National Stage in September

8/22/22
Venture capitalists from across the nation will descend on Houston September 12 to explore the city’s startup and innovation ecosystem at Venture Houston 2022, a daylong forum hosted by HX Venture Fund at The Ion. HX Venture Fund, a fund investing in venture capital funds, was created in 2017 to serve as one of several catalysts  to transform the Houston region into a world-leading hub for innovation. The fund works to attracts risk capital of leading venture capital firms outside of Houston to the area. Click to expand Since 2017, Houston’s tech and innovation ecosystem has grown significantly. Houston is now considered the third-fastest growing tech ecosystem for early-stage companies in the country. Houston companies secured $2.02 billion in venture capital funding last year, a 420% increase over five years earlier.  We spoke with HX Venture Fund’s Managing Director Sandy Guitar to discuss why Venture Houston 2022 is critical to Houston’s continued success. Why is Venture Houston 2022 important to the region and what conversations should we anticipate?  Venture Houston is a conference that showcases future innovation in Houston. We bring to the stage venture capitalists whose investment strategy is in line with the kinds of investments we offer in Houston, together with corporate innovation leaders in Houston, alongside some of Houston’s premier Founders.  We will be hosting conversations along significant tech verticals that are pillars of strength in Houston: conversations that highlight best practices in enterprise and consumer-facing software, energy transition, life sciences, space and mobility and more. The data shows us there is clear momentum in Houston. Since 2017, VC investment has grown from $423 million to $2.02 billion in 2021, a near five-fold increase and unprecedented 47.4% growth rate per year. How is Houston positioned to continue to be a top market for investment?   We believe that innovative entrepreneurs are everywhere, and very much prevalent in Houston. Historically, we have been a flyover city for many sophisticated sources of venture capital. Today, experienced venture capitalists from the coasts are landing in Houston at our invitation and are excited about the investment opportunities here. We have entrepreneurs building category-changing companies that can disrupt some of the most potent areas for innovation in the world, and the venture capitalists are paying attention. What can the Houston ecosystem do better to support and foster its innovation ecosystem and help startups increase their access to capital? The venture capitalists with whom we partner see us as the “easy button” to investing in Houston. At HX Venture Fund, we are committed to bringing in the kind of capital that Houston needs to innovate. We commend the many ecosystem players that also have a role in making connections and add value in the private company process. Groups like the Cannon, Greentown Labs, Mass Challenge and many more are making a real difference as well.  Anything else that you’d like to add or that you’d like people to know about HXVF and/or Venture Houston 2022? We would like to thank the corporate innovators in Houston that help make all of this happen.  We could not do this work without the support of our Limited Partners, who are seeking to support innovation in their own global corporations by being customers, investors and acquirers of high growth, venture-backed tech companies, and who are great corporate neighbors supporting Houston.  Learn more about Houston's innovation ecosystem. 
Read More

Related Events

Demography

Future of Texas with Senator Brandon Creighton

The Future of Texas series features thought leaders shaping our state's future, giving Partnership members the opportunity to engage with these leaders and hear their perspectives on our city and state's most…

Learn More
Learn More