Even if you're a vehicle buff, you may not have heard of Aurora Innovation, but with news that the company has raised in excess of $530 million from some major Silicon Valley players, you're likely to read about them a lot more from now on. 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.
Aurora also noted its latest round of funding will help them accelerate the development of their autonomous driving technology and strengthen their team as well as their ecosystem. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round previous year. But the crowded field is largely dominated by the top five companies with significant backing and funding: Alphabet's Waymo unit, General Motors' Cruise unit, Zoox, Aurora and Ford-backed Argo AI. CEO Chris Urmson was with Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) self-driving auto program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, worked for Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson helped lead Tesla's Autopilot development. The case eventually settled and Aurora paid Tesla $100,000. Amazon, a logistics and delivery behemoth, has shown interest in autonomous driving, recently launching a program to help developers test their own self-driving technology.
Bloomberg also said that Aurora has partnered with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Chinese electric vehicle startup Byton, which has received recognition for its futuristic-looking cockpits and a focus on bringing autonomous hardware to market quickly.
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Aurora doesn't build self-driving cars.
Amazon did not reveal how much it had invested but said it could use driverless auto systems in package delivery or in its warehouses. "Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive", an Amazon spokesperson said, "whether it's in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we're excited about the possibilities".
"We are always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed companies, and Aurora is just that".