Aurora, a startup specializing in self-driving automotive technology, which was created by three leading researchers in the field, recently raised more than $ 530 million through a fundraising campaign that even brought the retail giant, Amazon, as an investor. Under the leadership of Chris Urmson, former head of the Google Autonomous Car Project, Aurora said venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, based in Silicon Valley, and had led the B series that included Amazon and T. Rowe Price. Sequoia partner Carl Eschenbach also joins Aurora’s Board of Directors, which includes other technology investors Mike Volpi, Ian Smith, and Reid Hoffman.
Aurora is now one of the best-funded players working on the commercialization of autonomous vehicle technology, raising a total of $ 620 million, including $ 90 million a year ago. And while it uses all the computer, software and computing power needed, Aurora does not intend to operate or build fleets of autonomous vehicles such as the Waymo Alphabet, successor to Google, General Motors and his cruise unit, Tesla and the robot-taxi startup called Zoox. Instead, it forms partnerships with companies such as Volkswagen, Hyundai Motor and China-backed electric vehicle start-up, Byton, to help develop the autonomous vehicles of these companies.
Uncertainty as to Aurora’s Strategic Interests
So, if Aurora will not have to manufacture its own vehicles, one might inquire if all this funding is really necessary. According to Chris Urmson, autonomy is considered to be a fundamentally difficult problem. Aurora knows that capital is important and it has made it clear to its partners and investors that this is not an easy task. Urmson also said that the higher management is very delighted that a big tech company like Amazon, who is seriously thinking about the implications of logistics and the movement of goods is investing, however, he did not make mention of whether this investment could lead to a technology partnership. Chris Urmson is Aurora’s co-founder and CEO, while Sterling Anderson, is the company’s co-founder and Product Manager. Drew Bagnell is also one of the co-founders of the company as well as its Chief Technology Officer.
Amazon’s Interests in Autonomous Vehicles
Publicly, Amazon has been more serene about its autonomous vehicle projects than even the notoriously reluctant Apple, which recognizes at least that engineers are working on the technology. This may be because no American retailer has more to gain from marketing robotic trucks and automated delivery vehicles. Amazon is always looking to invest in innovative, customer-obsessed businesses, and Aurora is just that, representatives from Amazon said recently.
According to them, autonomous technology possesses the incredible potential to aid in making the jobs of Amazon’s employees and partners, not just safer, but also far more productive, whether that concerns a distribution center or on the road delivery tasks. An Amazon spokesman declined to confirm whether Aurora was its first investment in standalone technology. Partners in Lightspeed Venture, Geodesic, Shell Ventures, and Reinvent Capital also participated in the last round of funding, along with previous lenders Greylock and Index Ventures. Urmson was an original member of the Google team. Aurora co-founders include former Tesla autopilot chief, Sterling Anderson, an MIT-trained robot scientist, and Drew Bagnell, a former senior engineer at Uber’s Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh, and an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
Chris Urmson the Brains behind Aurora
Urmson has championed the potential benefits of the company’s autonomous vehicles since coming to Google, including reducing traffic accidents and simplifying transportation. This enthusiasm is not discouraged by the slow start of Waymo’s commercial operations and other self-driving programs. According to Chris Urmson, it is all about building something that will make roads safer, as well as result in making transportation more accessible and better, on the whole. He also added that Aurora will build an amazing business and build something meaningful, by being transparent and collaborative with its investors.