Amazon invests in self-driving vehicle startup Aurora

Mae Love
February 8, 2019

Aurora Chief Executive Chris Urmson, who earlier led Alphabet's self-driving program, said the financing allows Aurora to expand and refine the testing and development of its autonomous driving system, and to hire, growing its staff of more than 200 people spread between offices in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. An investment isn't the same as a partnership - it signals intent more than action. Overall, it intends to be the "nerve center" of autonomous vehicles, and that vision has been funneled into what the company calls the Aurora Driver platform.

Like many similar startups, Aurora is focused on developing a driverless system rather than producing full-fledged cars. The startup has remained fiercely independent, cultivating partnerships with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Byton while designing a suite of software, hardware and data services created to support a range of automakers and transportation networks. Sequoia Capital and T.Rowe Price were also major investors during the investment round, altogether signaling a vote of confidence in the self-driving competition now underway that Amazon apparently doesn't intend to miss out on. "This is the dream team of self driving vehicles". Last year Aurora secured the first state permit to test its vehicles throughout Pennsylvania, beating out Uber. Embark also received significant funding from Sequoia past year and has raised $47 million overall to date. Even Waymo's robotaxi service in Arizona still has trained backup drivers inside.

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In a statement, Amazon said autonomous vehicles could help its employees: "We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that". The case eventually settled and Aurora paid Tesla $100,000. After dipping its toe in the robotic vehicle arena with Scout, an autonomous delivery robot, and collaboration with Embark, a self-driving truck startup, Amazon definitely seems interested in where the field is headed. Amazon now uses automation in its warehouses and is designing a future delivery system with drones to deliver packages, and is a technology company with a significant logistics arm.

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