Published: Fri, February 08, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Startup Aurora gets $530 million boost to build self-driving cars

Startup Aurora gets $530 million boost to build self-driving cars

Aurora Innovation appears to have attracted much of that funding on the strength of its self-driving tech superstar co-founders, who include CEO Chris Urmson, formerly of Google's self-driving vehicle program (pre-Waymo); CTO Drew Bagnell, formerly of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group; and CPO Sterling Anderson, who helped lead the development of Tesla's Autopilot. It provides software for partners, including Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Chinese carmaker Byton - which promises vehicles capable of Level 4 autonomy by 2021. Co-founder Sterling Anderson was the head of Tesla's Autopilot program and was back in 2017 for allegedly taking information and engineers with him to his new company.

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. Drew Bagnell, the chief technology officer, was a founding member of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. Aurora raised $90 million in a funding round a year ago. Eschenbach will also be joining Aurora's board. Amazon could use this for self-driving cargo and courier vehicles, reducing its need for human drivers (like it or not) and speeding up delivery times by keeping products moving around the clock.

T. Rowe Price also invested along with Inc and several venture capital firms. 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.

Aurora doesn't build self-driving cars. 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.

"Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, 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".

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