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The Road Ahead: New Braunfels' Autonomous Truck Revolution

Published Monday, May 13, 2024 10:40am

Autonomous transportation is quickly becoming a reality of modern living. One city has placed itself squarely in the center of innovation and progress: New Braunfels, Texas. Nestled strategically between the bustling metropolises of Austin and San Antonio, New Braunfels is swiftly positioning itself as the epicenter of autonomous vehicle technology. Spearheaded by industry leaders Continental and Aurora Innovation, this city is not only witnessing the dawn of a new era in transportation but is actively shaping its trajectory today and for the future.

Understanding Autonomous Trucks

Autonomous trucks represent far more than a technological advancement; they embody a paradigm shift in transportation philosophy. With promises of safer roads, heightened efficiency, and reduced carbon footprints, these vehicles herald a future where logistics and supply chain operations are streamlined to unprecedented levels. 

The potential impact of these autonomous trucks on transportation infrastructure is game-changing. By leveraging advanced sensor systems and artificial intelligence, autonomous trucks can fundamentally transform how products are transported across the country.

The Continental and Aurora Partnership

Central to the evolution of autonomous trucks is a groundbreaking collaboration between Continental and Aurora Innovation. In 2023, Continental finalized a deal with Aurora Innovation to produce the world's first scalable autonomous trucks. Continental's $300 million investment at the New Braunfels facility will make much of the Aurora autonomous kits’ hardware and play an essential role in the final assembly and overall service concept of scalable autonomous trucks. 

Continental’s North American Headquarters for autonomous mobility is located in New Braunfels, and the technology being implemented in this program is developed and produced right here in our community. In this videoJeremy McClain, Vice President of Autonomous Mobility at Continental, discusses how the proficiencies will allow successful autonomous trucking migration via scaled production.

In an April 2023 press release, Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO at Aurora, spoke to Continental’s abilities. “Continental's legacy in development and industrialization of automated driving systems, combined with its commitment to transform transportation make it an ideal partner for Aurora. Their depth of expertise will be pivotal to scaling Aurora’s autonomous trucking service, Aurora Horizon,” he said.

Why New Braunfels?

The rise of New Braunfels as a hub for autonomous vehicles is not unexpected; it is the result of a carefully cultivated ecosystem that fosters innovation and economic growth. Therefore, as residents and businesses of Austin and San Antonio, two of the eleven largest cities in the U.S., seek growth and opportunity, New Braunfels offers a logical destination with a list of critical advantages.  

Booming Growth

In recent years, New Braunfels has experienced unprecedented population and economic growth, earning accolades as one of the nation's top boomtowns. For 2022, Smart Asset ranked New Braunfels as the #4 Boomtown in the country in 2022, with the second-highest population (36.1%) and housing growth (40.86%) between 2016 and 2021. 

Support for Continued Expansion

Strategically positioned between major urban centers, New Braunfels offers unparalleled access to markets, suppliers, and talent pools. The location, at the crossroads of Austin and San Antonio, is a game-changer for many local businesses. Local transportation infrastructure offers instant access to markets and suppliers, whether local, national, or international. Highways like Interstate 35 and Interstate 10, two international airports (San Antonio International Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport), and one of two Texas intermodal logistics facilities (Port San Antonio) provide enviable connectivity. As a result, New Braunfels is the perfect launchpad for companies looking to scale and expand their operations.

Investing in Real Estate

Visionary developments like Veramendi and Mayfair are emblematic of New Braunfels' commitment to sustainable growth and community enhancement. These developments represent the future of urban planning and integrate residential, commercial, and recreational spaces seamlessly, creating vibrant communities where people can live, work, and play.

Success in Manufacturing

New Braunfels' manufacturing portfolio is growing and fueled by investments from industry leaders.  Continental’s investment above followed its opening of the new $110 million state-of-the-art automotive manufacturing facility in 2022 to manufacture Advanced Driver Assistance Systems products. Manufacturing potential is not limited to major national corporations. CGT, a global automotive finishing supply chain leader, employs over 275 residents in its $80 million state-of-the-art production facility in New Braunfels. Finally,  Detex Corporation, which engineers and manufactures access control alarms, annunciator panels and optically controlled turnstiles, made a $16 million investment in 2022, employing 150 people and adding 60,000 square feet to its New Braunfels location. 

Education and Training

The city's commitment to education and training develops top-tier talent and resources, further enhancing its appeal to businesses. New Braunfels boasts a world-class education system with award-winning programs in Career and Technical Education that produces highly skilled graduates from institutions at the forefront of research and innovation. This commitment to workforce development will create generations of success and help the city grow even further. 

Locally, the Texas State Technical College New Braunfels provides higher education and technical training to meet the needs of high-demand manufacturing occupations such as Advanced Manufacturing Technicians, Production Technicians, Robotics, Maintenance, and Welding. Northeast Lakeview College New Braunfels prepares students for careers in Allied Health Professions and education in English, Math, Fine Arts, and Sciences. Howard Payne University New Braunfels offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Nearly a dozen universities lie within an hour’s drive from New Braunfels, highlighted by the University of Texas at Austin, one of the top universities in the world.

Seize the Opportunity

As New Braunfels cements its position as a leader in autonomous vehicle technology, the opportunities for growth and innovation are limitless. The future of transportation is being shaped in New Braunfels. To be part of the autonomous truck movement and other exciting developments in New Braunfels, contact the New Braunfels Chamber’s Economic Development Team today. Together, we can pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future in the heart of Central Texas.